ME. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
ME. BEYANT'S MISTAKE
AUTHOR OF 'a dreamer,' * AN ILL-REGULATED MIND,' ETC.
IN THREE VOLUMES— VOL. IT
RICHARD BENTLEY & SON, NEW BURLINGTON ST,
publisJjers in ©rtjtnarp to l^tr ilHajcstg tfjc ©ucm
All rights reserved
' And the gusty "kviinls wakeil tlie winged seeds
Out of their birthplace of ugly weeds,
Till they clun^ round niauy a sweet flower's stem.
Reflection ........ 1
The Turn of the Tide 87
Evil News Rides Post . .187
Doubting Castle . . . . . 255
VOL. II 20
ME. BEYANT'S MISTAKE
On the morrow of that eventful day every one had
to pick up the thread of liis life and go on as if
nothing had happened.
Mrs. Leach gave her children and friends a
wondrous account of her adventure on the line, and,
to her great satisfaction, became credited with the
family power of working miracles. For to keep the
story in her own hands, as it were, she suppressed
for the present all reference to the Tanswick beer-
shop, to her anxious niece, and to the strong arm
of Sir Vincent Leicester. In her version she had
been overcome by a draught of Inspiredness ; Xannie
was her guardian angel grown visible ; and Sir
Vincent, the archangel Michael, with the body of
Moses m his hand. Lizzie and some of the neigh-
bours believed it all. Mrs. Leach wished no one to
suspect she had been drinking ; on no account would
4 MR. Bryant's mistake
she sign the pledge to-day, lest any connection should
be guessed between the two events ; but she in-
wardly decided, being alarmed by Alick's preaching
and by her own adventure, that repentance and a new
life had become absolutely necessary. So she put
on her best clothes and a pious countenance, took her
Bible in her hand, and went out to visit the poor.
Nannie gave no particulars of what had occurred.
No one seemed curious on the subject, and she had
no wish to be questioned about its sequel. None of
these home people were in her confidence, and how
could she make any one understand the wild joy
that possessed her heart at the unexpected, the
beautiful thing that had happened to her ? He
loved her ; and they had kissed each other ! Was
it not enough to make her happy for the rest of her
life ? even though ' it came to nothing.' For Nannie
could not see any way in which their love could
get any further. While she had leaned on his
breast on the moor- side, where they had been so
nearly killed together, he had not seemed so very
far away ; but no sooner was she at home and
darning her father's stockings, very silently with a
pensive smile playing round her lips, than she
recognised that she was in her right, her only place,
and that, alas ! there was no position in her sphere
for liim. The impossible was very sweet, but she
dared not think that even a boaxding school, or a
REFLECTION " 5
dancing-master, or Murray's Grammar (vague notions
of which vulgarities were oppressing Vincent, and
already casting a shadow on the delicate brightness
of his sea-nymph), could ever make it attainable.
' But oh ! I do so wish I had been a lady !' was the
refrain of her cogitations ; which had perhaps been
sadder but for his ring burning her throat unseen ;
an earnest that he was going to speak to her just
once more of love.
Alick, the holy martyr, had had time for reflection
in the police-cell, where he lay awaiting the judg-
ment of the Bench of Tanswick magistrates on his
Attempted Suicide ; then the snuffy old Mr. Sand-
ford and his coadjutors sat upon him, and Sir
Vincent and others appeared against him, but said
they did not wish the charge pressed ; so he was
dismissed with a caution not to do it again, and Sir
Vincent drove the martyr home in his own dogcart,
trying to talk the matter over friendlily and reason-
ably, and finding Alick very respectful, very meek,
and very obstinate.
' Will you read a few books on philosophy, Alick,
if I give them to you ? '
' No, sir, thank you kindly. '' The world by
wisdom knew not God." '
' But the world by wisdom knows itself. That
is the beginning and end of philosophy.'
' Ay, sir ; but I want something a bit higher than
6 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
myself. I am a worm and no man ; my righteous-
nesses are filthy rags and my strength a shadow.
You need not fear as the devil shall make me exalt
myself, sir.' Vincent looked at the quiet sincere
face not unadmiringiy. He suggested that Alick
should consult Mr. Bryant. But Alick heaved a
sigh, and said sorrowfully —
' i pray God, sir, you ain't been thinking too
highly of Mr. Bryant.'
At which Ymcent waxed impatient, and said :
' Upon my soul, Alick, you think you are the
only righteous man in the country !'
Alick was received by a dozen disciples, who
followed him to his home and wherever he went;
and in the evening he learned that a subscription
had been started to support him for a fortnight, if
he would leave his handicraft and devote himself to
preaching and healing.
It may be imagined that Alick Eandle, thus firmly
seated on the prophetic stool, showed no disposition
to relent towards Mr. Bryant, the liar ; who had
fought with seven devils, and had been worsted by
them without his own knowledge. For the clergyman
was not aware, once his spirits had revived with the
certainty that no one had seen him run away and
that Mrs. Leach and Nannie were safe in their homes,
what a crisis that evening had been in his moral
history. On the contrary, he believed himself come to
terms with his foe ; certain things he would do and
certain things he would not do ; the de\dls were not
to be too hard upon him, and make him a coward
and a murderer because, for the sake of his dear wife
and his showy daughter and his own gentility, some
economy of the truth was necessary ! Mr. Bryant
thought himself altogether in the w^ay of repentance ;
and so (as the miserable fanatic was not to be pacified
in any other way) he one evening actually presented
himself at the Heights to make to Sir Vincent a
statement of facts. And as he stood in his patron's
library, he looked all that was virtuous and Christian
and gentleman -like. 'Tis unfortunate when the
countenance involuntarily assumes merits the heart
has not ; the fact is sure to suggest a resource in
season of difficulty.
Mr. Bryant's opening remarks about private
affairs and discovery that his means of usefulness in
Everwell were sadly crippled, were unenlightening,
and indeed a little tedious to Vincent, who was
thinking hard of his own matters, and building
diligently castle after castle in impossible and unsafe
regions of air.
' What is the man driving at ?' he asked himself
impatiently ; and then he started, for the clergyman
addressed him directly on the subject of Georgina ;
whose coming with her father to Everwell had been,
under the circumstances, undesirable — most un-
8 MR. BR Y ant's MISTAKE
desirable ; and against Mr. Bryant's wish, though
a matter of absolute necessity. ' But, my dear lad,'
and the clergyman rose and put his arm through
that of the unwilling Vincent, who, to his great
annoyance, felt himself flushing, ' you must permit
me, while we are on this subject, to say one word
more. If you could only manage to ignore Georgie
a bit ! I fear my little woman will never learn
to estimate rightly a certain piece of folly on your
part last year, if you haven't the strength of mind
to conceal your — what shall I say ? — admiration for
her better than this. Of course I know,' continued
Mr. Bryant, with his air of dignified humility, ' that
you have recognised the sense of my objections to
your proposals last year ; but I am getting seriously
afraid that you have not made this fact clear
to Georgina, poor child ; and besides it is not
pleasant to me to have strangers remarking on your
manner to her, and forming entirely erroneous
opinions as to your intentions.'
Vincent was not sharp enough to discern Mr.
Bryant's motive in thus accentuating his entangle-
ment with Georgina before telling the detestable
news ; but he proved even more matter-of-fact
and stupid than the clergyman had wished ; for he
received the scolding in the letter and not in the
spirit, made no attempt to combat his friend's
' objections ' to his pretensions, and stammered some-
tiling about 'regret' and 'amendment,' which was the
very opposite of what Mr. Bryant had wished. And
then there was a pause ; and Vincent's thoughts
flew back to Xannie again ; and he ardently wished
Mr. Bryant would go away.
' I must explain my position a little,' said the
clerg}'man at last ; ' your conduct to Georgina is
not my only reason for wishing to leave Everwell.'
* But you mustn't leave Everwell,' cried Vincent,
recovering his good humour ; ' we should have Alick
crowned Pope in a week !'
* You will be surprised,' continued Mr. Bryant ;
you will perhaps wonder that I have not told you
before. But really, if it had not been for a most
singular coincidence, I do not see that I should have
mentioned the matter at all. I have found relations
at Everwell, Sir Vincent.'
The clerg}'man's manner suggested something
unpleasant ; and the moment his wife was men-
tioned Vincent began to understand. Ah, his wife !
People got into a convenient habit of ignoring Mrs.
Bryant, but true, there she always was, large as life,
and when one came to think of it, * a little under-
bred.' And now ]Mr. Bryant went on : ' The fact is,
my dear wife is not — well, I have no doubt you
have perceived what I would say. She was a most
beautiful, enchanting, excellent creature. Young
men are romantic sometimes, as you are aware ; and
lo MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
must not complain when they are elderly, if their
romantic actions entail certain little inconveniences.
But I had no idea that I should find my brother-
in-law, Benjamin Eandle, living at Ever well.'
' Eandle ! ' ejaculated Vincent, so much startled
that a silence was necessary for both parties to
arrange their thoughts. Mr. Bryant felt nearly mad
with chagrin ; for the young man's tone as he
repeated the name seemed to him to say, ' That is
far worse than I had expected.'
Of course it was not Vincent's thought. Nannie
was the centre of his present being, and involun-
tarily he referred every word, every trivial event
to its unseen connection with her. A feeling of
positive relief and elation shot through him. If
Nannie were related to such a superior person as
the clergyman, what exception could any one take to
her ? And if a dignitary of Mr. Bryant's reputa-
tion had done the very thing he was contemplating
for himself, had married a farmer's daughter, surely
his own position was precedented, simple, and
natural ? Views so ludicrously unreal that they
When one has been startled, feeling and thought
swing wildly from extreme to extreme, and Vincent's
momentary satisfaction was succeeded by a sense of
intolerable irritation and disgust. A shiver ran
down his back, for it suddenly occurred to him
that there was a family likeness between Mrs.
Bryant and his own adorable Nannie. Good
heavens ! it was surely impossible that the lovely
girl could turn into a person like that ! But
Mr. Bryant was talking on ; explaining away very
plausibly his denial of Ann Leach when first con-
fronted by her — ' So changed from what she was
that we neither of us recognised her ' — ' to my poor
wife and myself that woman's propinquity a terrible
infliction ' — and so forth. Till Vincent interrupted
with a sudden burst of harsh, unmirthful laughter.
To think that conventional gentlemen like Mr.
Bryant and himself could ever be connected with
Mrs. Leach ! In his own grating laugh Vincent
heard the laughter of the world when he should
have his peasant bride; who was like Mrs. Bryant,
cousin to the Methodist ranter, and niece to Mrs.
Leach ! ' It will be impossible to marry Xannie ! '
said his depressed spirit.
Mr. Bryant, who had not the clue to Sir Vincent's
amusement, stopped short in his explanations, with
No doubt the clergyman's w^as the sanguine tempera-
ment, and hope sprang eternal in his breast. Sir
1 2 MR. BR YANT S MIS TA KE
Vincent's laugh flattened his spirits for a few
minutes ; but presently he began to think it
mere ill manners ; for his patron shook his hand
no less civilly than usual at parting, and his last
words were really cordial : ' What the deuce is there
in all this to drive you away from Everwell ? '
Before the day was over Mr. Bryant had decided
not to flee from his parish in too great a hurry,
and his resolution to obtain the young baronet for a
son-in-law was sprouting again green as ever. For
this is how Georgina received her father's unpleasant
' I really do think, papa,' she said, ' you must
have been out of your mind to make such a mes-
alliance as that.'
' Georgina, it is not your place to make the
remark,' he replied, chafing horribly. She wept ; at
least Mr. Bryant thought so.
' Dearest, dearest papa ! Forgive me ! No, no,
I should not reproach you when I know you are
suffering yourself from your mistake. But I can't
help feeling it most dreadfully. I have been used
to such a very different sort of people. Papa, dear,
if I have to associate with — farmers' daughters,
what will Lady Katharine think ? and — oh, papa —
Vincent .? ' she sobbed.
' You'll have to give Vincent up, my poor child.'
'Oh, I can't — I carCtl mourned Georgina, in
heart-broken accents ; ' I — I love him so ! ' Poor
Mr. Bryant ! He had not expected this.
' My child ! My poor, dear child ! ' he exclaimed,
kissing her. Then he rose and walked up and down
the room in great agitation. ' Come now, Georgie,
this won't do. Come now, Georgie, be brave, my
dearest child, and look your fate sternly in the face.
Apart from the question of your stepmother al-
together, Georgie, you mustn't be hoping to marry
Sir Vincent Leicester. He's a cut above you,
Georgie, that's the fact of the matter, and he knows
it himself well enough. He has changed his mind ;
and I knew all along it wouldn't do. I had no
idea, Georgie, you were so hard hit ; my poor child.'
Then Georgina sat up with an air of desperate pride,
forcing her broken heart together again that her
dear father might take comfort.
'No one shall know that I suffer, papa. Of
course, Vincent will see noio that it cannot be.'
' What do you mean, Georgie, by now ? '
' Oh, you foolish papa — haven't you seen ? But
no — it was always chiefly when we were alone —
dear Vincent. No, he has not changed to me.
And we have been so happy together these few
days ! Xow, of course, it must all be given up.'
All this was confessed with stammering modesty,
and Mr. Bryant was greatly moved. He pondered.
' My child,' said the father at last, ' I will say
14 MR. BR Y ant's MISTAKE
this much for Vincent Leicester ; if he has renewed
his courtship since you have met here, I do not
believe he is the man to draw back now merely on
account of your stepmother's connections. If his
love or his honour, or, as I hope, both, prompt him to
engage himself to you, Georgie, he will override objec-
tions of the nature you fear ; only, my dearest child,
you must not attach too much significance '
But Georgina smiled with serene and sparkling
eyes. ' His love and his honour ! ah yes ! dear papa,
you know him too ! Thank you for reminding me. I
am content to trust to dear Vincent's love and honour!'
and she went away smiling to herself; for verily she
did believe in her lover's honour ; and she had
boundless confidence in her own powers of seduction.
But Mr. Bryant felt himself torn in pieces by so
many conflicting emotions. He could make no stand
at all against Georgina's pathos ; and now poor dear
Emma was pathetic too. He found his wife in tears, in
her own ugly room where Georgina's improving finger
had not taken the trouble to intrude. On her knee
lay the thrush, which she had given to Georgina,
and which the girl had already starved to death.
Mr. Bryant was fond of dumb creatures as well as
of his wife, and he did feel annoyed with Georgina this
time. He sat down by Emma's side and comforted her.
' Oh, Ned,' said poor Emma, ' it isn't only the
bird ! But whenever I think of Georgie I feel I
must cry. "Why ever did you send her away when
she was a little thing, and getting to love me hke
her mother ? She'll never be my daughter now.
She only laughed at my having lost Jerry's pretty
loving ways. She would prevent you loving me if
* Xo one shall do that, Emma ! But you are too
hard on Georgie, my love. It is only that she is
young and a little thoughtless.'
* But I'd have been so fond of her, Xed ! I had
all the love I was going to give my own children
ready to give her. And she don't want it.'
' My poor Emma ! Yes. I wish you had a
dear daughter of your own,' he said, soothing her.
' Oh yes, yes, Xed ! I do wish it. I love to
think you wish it for me. I had a daughter once !
Let me talk about her, Ned,' whispered the lonely
woman, passionately, ' just for once while there is
only you and me to hear. My baby that died long
ago, and I wasn't able to mourn for her at the time,
so the tears are here still after all these years,
waiting to flow.'
' I wish she had Lived, Emma. I wish you had
had her with you.' And at the moment, remorse
busy in his heart, he did wish it.
' Oh Ned, dearest, dearest husband ! It does
me good to hear you say that — to know you mean
it and think it.'
i6 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
Alas for Mr. Bryant ! She went on. ' I am
feeling it so to-day, Ned, because I have seen that
dear girl of Ben's again ! Oh, Ned, they were like
each other ! I could have fancied Mary growing
up just like that. It feels almost as if she was my
own sweet little Mary come to life ! ' Mr. Bryant
started to his feet. It seemed as if cold hands had
seized him and were clawing at his vitals. A per-
spiration of horror broke out on his brow. He was
conscious of evils in swift approach.
' Good heavens, Emma ! ' he said, all his tender-
ness vanishing, ' what are you saying ? You seem
to forget Mary's position. And as to that Nannie —
you have nothing to do with her. I tell you, she
is the one member of your brother's family whom I
cannot endure ; whom I will not have brought into
my house ! ' Emma was terrified.
'What is the matter?' asked Lady Katharine,
hearing her son laugh in a wild disconcerted sort of
way, as he sat by himself in the library after the
clergyman's departure. John muttered something
about crackling thorns under a pot, keeping his
back to her ladyship and continuing to rub the
antique bronze lamp, which swung about in the
draught, and made strange shadows among the suits
of armour and rusty swords and pikes. Lady
Katharine was offended and went to complain to
' I have some news for you, mother ! ' cried Vin-
cent. ' Never mind about John. He has only
been converted, and when I send Alick to the
asylum I will secure a vacancy for him as well.
Listen — Bryant has been here.'
' Well ? ' said the widow, sitting very straight
in the lounging chair and not looking pleased at
Vincent, who was sprawling on the sofa before
her, his countenance still agitated by ungenial
laughter. She agreed with Mr. Sandford ; the
manners of the rising generation were very bad.
'Vincent, do stop laughing,' she said, having
heard j\Ir. Bryant's communication. ' It is not a
' Why not ? ' returned the son, with slight defiance
in his tone ; ' I never was so amused in my life ! '
' So it appears. You don't seem to re-
collect — ' she hesitated and changed her ending.
' I really wish, dear, you had been less hasty about
' Why ? ' The note of defiance was becoming
louder. Lady Katharine was determined to say it
VOL. II 21
1 8 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
' I should be exceedingly sorry, Vincent, that
you connected yourself with people ' Some-
thing in her son's expression checked her again.
' Now, mother, take care. I propose to judge
people by what they are ; not by what 'stupid, musty
old ancestors they may have had. Ancestors !
What humbug it is ! Haven't we all had much the
same number of ancestors ? And I don't know
what benefit I ever got from the bloodthirsty or
dissolute or ignorant old gentlemen, who have, the
greater number of them, left no better record than
their names on that family tree.' The widow was
' I had no idea, Vincent, that you had such repub-
lican ideas. They are most mischievous. Your dear
father always said so. You cannot mean what you
say. And when you marry I do sincerely implore
you to marry a lady of your own rank. I do not
attach importance to money, or even to exalted
position; but blood is essential — most essential.'
Vincent laughed again. He took a penknife
and drove it into his finger.
' See, mother, my blood is not so very blue after
all ! I fancy red blood is the essential ; to flow
freely and make use of its opportunities, building
up a man or a woman either, big and strong, and
fresh coloured and good tempered. Thank you for
my red blood, mother. Look at it ! Isn't it a fine
colour ? But, do you know, if you pricked the finger
of some buxom milkmaid with never a grandfather,
and let the drops mingle with mine you wouldn't
know one from the other ! ' Lady Katharine pushed
his hand away.
' DorLt, Vincent. That is a disgusting way of
speaking, and of lacerating yourself. But I hope,
dear,' she added, tenderly, taking his hand again
and staunching the wound with her handkerchief,
' if you are determined on making this marriage,
that our dear Miss Bryant's family (apart from her
stepmother) will prove a great deal better than
' Georgina ? ' laughed Vincent, ' her blood is red
enough in all conscience ! How richly it mantles
up in her cheek when she is pleased, or when she
is put out. Such a beauty as that would want a
glass case over her. Alick says all the " quality "
live under glass cases and feel heaven's own breath
strange and nasty. But Georgina ! No, mother, it
wouldn't answer. Give me the fresh breeze of the
mountain side and the voice of nature. Nature has
done a great deal for Georgina, but she dreads it.
If the sun shines she wears a veil ; even kissing she
would endure in the strictest moderation. Kisses
have been said to raise blisters.'
' I cannot follow you, Vincent. And I think
your expressions are coarse.'
20 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
' Possibly. I tell you I have red blood in my
veins. I like the sun/ cried Nannie's lover ; ' I
like simplicity and confidence in one's warmest and
purest instincts. There are kisses I like, mother,' he
said, bending over the horrified widow. ' Ye gods ! for
them I would barter the family tree and every blue
drop in my body ; the applause of men and life in
drawing-rooms under glass cases from henceforth
until all the seas run dry. They are the only thing
worth living for ! They are life itself, hope, happi-
ness, heaven ! ' said Vincent, the more vehemently
that his resolution had been very rudely shaken.
' I think, Vincent, you have gone out of your
mind,' said Lady Katharine, coldly. But, poor boy,
she pitied him heartily ! What could be more un-
fortunate than to be deeply and irrevocably enamoured
of a beautiful and an excellent and a suitable young
lady, and then to discover that her stepmother was a
farmer's daughter ? Lady Katharine foresaw that she
would have to overlook this one defect in the charm-
ing Miss Bryant. Her son's precious heart must not
be broken. And Georgina was so nice. The widow
slept badly, thinking of Fortune's unkindness.
But Vincent had slept badly for many a night.
Love had kept him restless, — love for the unattainable
Nannie ; and then the (still vague) idea of marrying
her and passing the rest of his life in a perpetually
apologetic or a perpetually truculent attitude. To-
night Mr. Bryant had murdered his sleep effectually;
the man's love story had vulgarised his own, and
the offence was unpardonable.
Yesterday Vincent's position had been this :
the game he was playing was worth its candle ;
once in a thousand years some lowly maiden arises
as rare, as delicate, as bewitching as Nannie ; and
once in a thousand years a lover is found bold
enough to raise her to the purple that should have
l:)een hers by birth ; in warm moments he was even
pleased by the singularity, the risk, the romance of
the part he meant to act ; always, he loved her too
much to regret that he had declared his passion;
and, oh heavens ! had found it returned. Sweet,
lovely, enchanting Nannie ! she should be his ;
though to get her he must scandalise all his friends
and infuriate all his relations ; what matter when
he had found an Earthly Paradise ? So much for
To-night a parson had suddenly burst into
his Earthly Paradise ; was noisily claiming joint
ownership and vociferously pointing out that
its situation was not among the lofty mountains
of the ideal and the beautiful, but in the low-
lying, malarious, and hateful swamps of vulgar
reality. A horrid travesty of Vincent's charming
drama was being played for his edification. There
had been another beauty in Nannie's own family ;
22 MR. BR YANT S MISTAKE
a beauty who had now grown stout and flurried,
and confessedly 'a little underbred, you know.' And
another gentleman, — in Everwell at this moment, —
had married beneath him ; and, oh horrors ! had lived
to wish he hadn't done it ! Vincent's plot had lost
the charm of originality.
'I will marry my little darling/ said the lover
to himself, ' for I cannot live without her ; and
thank Heaven I have pledged myself to her. Yes,
I will marry Nannie, and live on in my Earthly
Paradise. Only I will not confess my marriage.
What good could it possibly do to either of us ? '
But there seemed no sort of finality about this
resolution ; and sleep was no nearer his eyelids
than before. There were, however, two stable poles
to his revolving emotions. One was indignation
against the parson ; the other a consuming desire to
see dear Nannie again, though he was certainly
reluctant in that matter of the formal proposal,
and though he had a carking fear that after the
manner of prudent young women in moral anecdotes
she would at their next meeting simply give him
back his ring, and refuse to have further dealings
with him of any sort, thus bringing the sweet
adventure to a premature conclusion. Could Nannie
be so unkind ? Vincent's hair stood on end at the
thought; and he could not sleep for the dread
But morning came at last, and with it came
Alick. Vincent, glad of distraction to his des-
pondent thoughts, surveyed the prophet's increased
dignity of appearance with a certain half-approving
* Sit down, Alick,' he said. ' These conferences
are weighty afiairs. The two kings at Sparta must
often have needed such. What has happened at
Everwell which needs my interference ? ' Sir Vin-
cent spoke in the slightly amused tone which the
* Did Mr. Bryant tell you, sir, as he's my uncle ? '
asked the inexorable Alick, without preamble.
' Yes,' drily.
' Is he the man you took him for, sir V
* What do you mean V stiffly.
* Is he a fit man to be over the people in the
Lord?' asked the prophet, and Vincent would
doubtless have laughed but for the man's majestic
* I did not expect class prejudice of this sort
from you, Alick.'
' You mistake me, su\ Mr. Bryant lied about it.'
' That is an improper expression for you to use.'
' Sir, you heard him yourself say he had never
seen mother afore.'
' Well, he was mistaken. It is no concern of
mine, and I decline to discuss it.'
24 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
' It is your concern, sir, for you have set this
man over us in the Lord. He came to mother that
very evening and bribed her to hold her tongue.'
Vincent rose angrily, ' I have refused to discuss
this with you. If you have no business to bring
me but gossip of this sort, you may go away.'
But he had had another turn against his friend
Mr. Bryant ; and to shake off his irritation became
yet more difficult. He went to Lady Katharine for
' Tell me, mother,' he said, abruptly, as they
drove an hour or two later to Tanswick, ' would you
have thought very badly of Bryant if he had hushed
up that information he gave us yesterday V
' Oh,' said the widow, comfortably, ' of course
when a gentleman finds his position misunderstood,
his very first impulse is to explain.'
' Exactly,' muttered the son ; and feared that his
own position would be much misunderstood when he
was secretly married to Nannie.
' Is not that precisely what our dear Mr. Bryant
has done ?'
' Yes, I believe so,' said Vincent, drily, and would
have left the matter there ; but Lady Katharine
improved the occasion, little thinking of the second
meaning all her words bore for her son.
' I can imagine no greater calamity in a family
than a man's marrying beneath him.'
' It depends on the woman. Mrs. Bryant was
not a good selection.'
' On the contrary, she seems an nnpresiiming,
diffident person. Just think of the younger women
of the Eandle family ! I have a positive dread of
young women of that class. I don't wonder, dear,
you are vexed about Mr. Bryant. One is afraid
there must be a great coarseness in a man's nature
when he can fall in love with a woman in that sort
of inferior position.'
' Men do it every day.'
' I cannot believe,' said the unsuspecting lady,
earnestly, ' that any young man of principle would
yield to such ill -regulated desires for a moment.
He must have been very careless — giddy, I fear — to
get into an entanglement of the sort ; and very
weak not to have extricated himself. Don't you
agree with me, Vincent?'
' No, I don't. Xot if the gu^l in question was
good and nice — as well as beautiful,' answered the
son, awkwardly ; afraid of betraying too much, and
hating Mrs. Bryant, the caricature of Nannie, whose
cause he was apparently pleading.
' My dear boy ! That is sucli an uninstructed,
childish view. No w^oman in a humble position, who
is good and nice, unless she is positively silly, will
form an attachment to any one out of her station, or
permit on his part the smallest attention or intimacy.'
26 MR. Bryant's MISTAKE
' There are exceptional cases/ urged Vincent.
Lady Katharine thought she had perhaps said too
much against Georgina's father ; and began now to
apologise for him, and to praise, in fact to over-
praise, his charming daughter. Vincent made a few
sarcastic replies ; then suddenly resolved to end at
least this misunderstanding. ■ Mother,' he said,
gravely, checking the ponies and looking round so as
to meet her anxious gaze, 'please remember that
there never was any engagement between Georgina
and me ; I am sorry I ever gave you the impression
that I wished to marry her.'
' Vincent !' Lady Katharine was taken completely
by surprise, and so much shocked that she simply
refused to accept what he was saying. Her peace-
ful history had centred round one solitary and per-
fectly satisfactory love ; and so to her a wandering
affection seemed symptomatic of almost depravity.
It was incredible of Vincent, who was beginning to
inspire her with respect. Moreover, by this time
Lady Katharine was far more in love with Georgina
than ever Vincent had been, and her inconsistent
mind was quite equal to the task of disliking
alliance with a family of such mry queer connec-
tions, and at the same time defending her son for
insisting upon the marriage. But now here was
Vincent himself talking of drawing back ! She had
not expected it ; it argued selfishness and the most
blameworthy worldliness. She could not believe it.
She preferred to think he was not serious. Georgina
and he had no doubt had some little misunderstand-
ing, which could be quickly set right by a little
friendly help from their elders.
There are many admirable women whose ideas
are all in a fog like Lady Katharine's. Fortunately,
their actions are generally directed by some clearer
part of their composition. They consider themselves
to have authority for their condition from at least
one great moral preceptor. Does he not say, that if
truths of apparently contrary character are candidly
and rightly received, they will fit themselves to-
gether in the mind without any trouble ? Such an
accommodating mind was the charitable one of Lady
' For always ? Oh, it seems too wonderful ! You
didn't think to say it to me till that night, sir, did
you ? Are you sure ? For always ?'
' Nannie, I would not deceive you for all the
world. A fortnight ago it did not seem possible to
me ; I do not now see the way very clearly. But,
Nannie, I do wish it. I love you above everything. I
wish to have you for always ; for my dear, dear wife.'
28 MR. Bryant's mistake
' Oh, I can't, I can't !' cried Nannie, her woman's
instinct divining the hesitation which he was too
honest to conceal from her. And she burst into
tears. How could Love see her weep unmoved ?
He knelt, drawing her to his heart.
' Darling ! dearest 1 tell me everything. What
is the matter ? Don't be afraid to tell me.'
' If I were a lady,' moaned Nannie, ' I would —
oh, I would this minute. You know it ! But we
are too different. It frightens me. It couldn't be
right. Oh, think if I made you unhappy! if we
came to wish we hadn't done it ! '
' Nannie 1 Nannie ! ' said Vincent, but with no
arguments quite ready to expose the fallacy of her
reasoning. ' What can I say, sweet Nannie, but that
I love you — love you with all my heart, Nannie ?
And if you love me '
Footsteps were heard approaching, and remember-
ing the necessities of the position, Vincent was
obliged, very reluctantly, to relinquish her from his
embrace ; they both rose, tremulous and uncertain of
themselves and afraid to speak to each other till
the intruder had passed. Indeed they looked guilty
enough as Mrs. Bryant walked slowly by, not
without a glance of inquiry and an attempted
greeting, to which neither of them responded.
' Do you think, sir, I ought to tell my father ? '
were Nannie's first words when they were alone again.
' Tell him if you like, Xannie. Tell any one you
like/ said Vincent.
'Oh no ! Xo one unless I must. It would
seem like boasting ! ' Then she laid her hand on
her lover's arm and raised her eyes to his. ' Good-
bye. You see it must be so. Shall I give you
your ring ? ' But he kept silence, gazing at her
and learning every line of the sweet face. And
then he smiled, for she was very fair ; and her
innocent eyes were meeting his with unconcealed
' Nannie,' said Vincent, abruptly, ' let us imit!
There was again a short silence.
' Wait ? ' she repeated, doubtfully, ' I don't see
that waiting could make any difference.'
* Yes. One never knows what changes may
come. Something might turn up to make our way
plain ; I cannot give you up altogether, sweet
Xannie, when I know you love me. Xannie, I
would wait a hundred years for you. "Will you not
wait a little while for me ? Come now — ' he tried
to speak lightly, ' you won't rush off desperately
and marry Alick ? '
' Oh no ! ' said Nannie, flushing and offended.
' That is something. Nannie, we could have a
talk out here sometimes, couldn't we ? We should
get to know each other and to see if we could
venture our whole lives togjether. I should know
30 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
that you were at heart my little sweetheart all the
time, and we should be happy living upon hope.
Will you consent to wait, Nannie ? '
' Would all that really be right ? ' said Nannie,
her hand stealing into his.
' Yes, quite right ! ' said Vincent. ' Dearest,
dearest, I love you ! '
Nannie had no reservations in her mind, and
her perfect confidence in him appealed to her lover
strongly. There was infinite reverence in the grave
kiss he pressed now upon her willing lips.
' You have my ring, Nannie ? You remember
what I told you it meant ? ' said Vincent. ' Sacred,
deserved, and endless trust. You will remember
that, my Nannie ? '
' To be at heart your little sweetheart,' she
murmured, repeating his words, and leaning her fore-
head against his arm with a little moan of great
'To be my wife if ever we see our way to it.
Say yes, my darling,' he urged, anxious to remove
ambiguity, which if not now, might in a little while
startle her confiding innocence.
' If things get very different,' said Nannie ; then
moved by his earnestness she whispered gravely,
' Thank you, my treasure — my lovely treasure ! '
said Vincent, his cheek flushing.
And somehow they stood a long tune together
there, in the dying sunlight, not saying much, but
smiling at each other, and already feeling the ex-
hilarating influence of the sparkling wine of hope.
But the question was, had they climbed over a
certain stile, to a path which leads indeed along by
the wayside, but through a meadow ; and that a
meadow easy to the feet, and called in ancient times
By-path Meadow ?
Mrs. Bryant, at any rate, had no doubt that they
had wandered in this manner.
Nannie, left alone, was sighing distractedly at having
had to part from her dear lover, when she felt a
hand laid on her shoulder, and she started to her
feet, to find her aunt by her side. The girl drew away
coldly from the proffered embrace, for her interest
in the affectionate woman had by no means been
stirred yet. Mrs. Bryant addressed her pleadingly.
'You'd rather I didn't tell your father or Patty
what I saw, dear, wouldn't you ? You know, my
dear,' urged Emma, having gained no response, ' I
saw Sir Vincent Leicester talking to you.'
' Well,' burst forth Nannie at last, ' we weren't
32 MR. Bryant's mistake
doing anything we oughtn't. You may tell father if
you wish. But if you talk to him in that sort of way
you'll get me into trouble. Father is very — I mean
he wouldn't hearken to what I had to say, like he
would to Patty or Caroline.'
' Will you let me talk to you a bit, as if I was
your own mother, Nannie, instead of your aunt ? '
* If you wish,' said I^annie, coldly. Mrs. Bryant
took her hand.
'My dear, I want to tell you we know Sir
Vincent very well indeed, because we believe he is
going to marry Georgina, Mr. Bryant's beautiful
daughter.' Nannie snatched her hand angrily away.
' You are making a mistake, aunt. I happen to
know Sir Vincent is not promised to any one ! ' she
' My dear, my dear ! Was Sir Vincent talking
that way to you ? Was he saying you were a
pretty girl and he loved you ? ' Nannie's heart
thumped and her colour came and went ; the
mildest woman will resist when there is an attempt
to rob her of her lover.
'Aunt, there is only one person I thought I
ought to tell, unless father. I thought maybe I
ought to tell Alick, who has a sort of right, and
who is better to me than all my own brothers and
sisters. I don't see no reason at all why I should
* My love, don't go away. Perhaps it will help
you, Nannie, if I tell you something about
only you must never speak of it to any one. Will
you promise me that ? I've had a deal of trouble,
Nannie,' she went on, ' though you see me now
with such a good husband and in such a nice home.
One may be very sad at heart though one is rich
and comfortable. I want to tell you a sad story,
dear, because it may be a warning to you against
gentlemen and their fine promises.' Poor Emma
could not help beating about the bush nervously.
' I am sorry if you aren't happy with ]\Ir. Bryant,'
said Nannie, trying to get away.
' Oh, my dear child, that is not what I mean.
Mr. Bryant isn't a gentleman ! And you mustn't
fancy the story has to do with me,' said Emma,
fussily ; ' it was about just a great friend of mine ! '
' Isn't Mr. Bryant a gentleman ? ' exclaimed
Nannie, thinking that gentlefolks and common
people seemed much more mixed up than she had
' Oh, it has nothing at all to do with Mr. Bryant,
Nannie I You must on no account speak of it to
him. My dear, you know about the little girl that
was nursed with you, and was to have been your
sister like, if she hadn't died ? Haven't they
never told you of her ? ' cried Mrs. Bryant,
* and she like your own twin sister ? They
VOL. II 22
34 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
must have talked to you of her. They can't
have let her be quite forgotten and she so
innocent ! '
' Mary Smith, wasn't it ? ' said Nannie, not at
' The story was never to be told, Nannie,' said
Mrs. Bryant, sinking her voice. ' Oh, I was so fond
of that child ! She was to have been called Lilian
or Violet, but your mother said plain Mary was
best, and I got fond of the name afterwards as it
'Why was the baby not to be spoken of,
aunt ? '
' Because I thought you'd have guessed,
my dear. The poor mother had no real husband,
' Oh, I see.' Nannie understood now ; not that
Mrs. Bryant was telling her own history ; that did
not occur to her : the clergyman's wife was quite
too prosperous ; but she was indignant at the
implied warning to herself ' I can't understand
your dreaming there is anything like that,' she
cried, angrily ; ' I should despise myself. He would
despise me. I should just think he would indeed !
He would think me a bad girl even to imagine such
a thing ! ' and Nannie's lip trembled and her blue
' Oh, my dear child, you don't know how easy
it is to a poor girl if she loves her sweetheart. I
have seen so many nice girls go wrong, ISTannie, and
so easily. They get to think it almost the right
thing to do. My dear, my dear, you must give it
all up before you come to caring for him like that,
for if you once got really to love him, Nannie, a
young gentleman like Sir Vincent Leicester would
twist you round his little finger.' Xannie rose very
' You must be a very wicked woman yourself,
aunt, to think such things of me. I know right from
wrong and I can take care of myself, thank you.
And I won't hear any more of that bad Mrs. Smith,
and have wicked thoughts put into my head, and
poison into what is the best thing I have ever had
in my whole life ! '
' My dear ! ' cried Mrs. Bryant, taking the girl's
hand again and holding it tight in her tremulous
grasp, ' I never said you had wicked thoughts.
Xo more hadn't Mary's mother. She was not led
astray in the way you think. It hurts me to
have you call her a wicked woman, Nannie. She
was just innocent and young like you.' ISTannie
* Aunt Emma, I see you mean to be kind, but
you are quite mistaking me, and you are mistaking
liim. He would never ask that. He wanted me to
many him. And I said, No. I felt I ought to
36 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
say, No. But he knows I love him, and I shall
never, never, never love any one else. There ! You
know all now.'
' ISTannie, I must tell you more about that woman,
though it hurts me to speak of the wickedness of
any one I loved so much. She thought like you,
dear, that a talk of marrying made it all right.
She believed all he said, and she thought he was
noble because he was ready to marry a poor girl,
and he a gentleman with grand relations and money,
and the pleasant way of speaking that gentlemen
have, as you know, my dear. And it was kept a
secret and no one knew. It all seemed to come
about natural-like, and he said it was only for a
time. And he got her away from her home and
met her in a place far away, and they were married
as she thought, like every one else ; only no one
knew. And that poor girl was as happy as the
Queen for a while, Nannie ' her voice failed
' Please, aunt, forgive me for saying she was a
bad woman,' said Nannie, impulsively, kneeling
down to comfort poor Mrs. Bryant. ' I didn't know
you cared for her so, and I didn't understand she
was married to him. Why didn't you say that
first ? '
' Thank you, my love. You think it makes such
a difterence, Nannie ? But the marrying didn't
make it right for that woman, Nannie. My dear,
he had told her Hes. Gentlemen do that to poor
girls. Oh, my dear child, take warning and don't
be believing what that young man says ! That
poor girl loved Frederick, Nannie, and thought she
knew all about him, and that he was true. But
in a very little while he got tired of her, and she
saw him seldomer and seldomer. And then she
found he was making love to another — oh, it was
such a bitter time, Nannie ! And at last he went
away — in a ship — leaving her for ever, as it turned
out (and as I believe he had meant) ; for there was
a wreck, and he was drowned. And then, Nannie,
she found it all out, — that she had been simple and
trusting, and deceived. And she never knew so
much as his real name — never. And the man who
had married them wasn't a clergyman at all. And
there had been no real ceremony, nor writing names
in registers, nor anything like it should be. And
she was no more his wife than you are, Nannie.
And her dear baby had no father ; and people
thought it a disgrace.' And the unhappy woman
buried her face in her hands and wept.
The girl had sunk back on her heels before
Mrs. Bryant and was watching her with wondering,
compassionate eyes. ' Poor thing ! ' said Nannie,
gently ; ' how she must have suffered. Oh, how
wrong of me to speak as I did of her ! '
38 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
' Thank you, my dear — my dear/ sobbed Mrs.
Bryant ; and there was a long pause. ' Nannie,
my love,' said the poor thing after a while, draw-
ing into her arms the fair girl who seemed dear
almost as Mary Smith herself, 'you'll not tell
Mr. Bryant nor any one I told you of this.
Hardly any one ever knew it, and they made me
promise never to tell. But you'll take warning,
dear, and give up that bad young man and never
trust him again.' Nannie sprang to her feet and
with her fingers felt the ring he had given her
hidden away from sight. Was her faith in him to
be tried thus soon ?
' No, aunt,' said Nannie, clasping her hands and
with her eyes fixed on the heavens, her sweet lips
smiling. ' I shall always love him. He is not like
that wicked man. I love him, and I honour him,
and I trust him. I know he is true, and I will
always be true to him.'
Nannie had intended to tell Alick about Sir Vin-
cent ; she had thought also of telling her father
or Patty. But that talk with her aunt changed
her resolve. It opened her eyes to see in what
light her love story would be regarded ; and be-
lieving as she did that no light could be more false,
it seemed wrong to expose its innocence to it.
After all there was next to nothing to tell. What
could it matter to any one that she had chosen
to love a bright particular star ? And would she not
be profoundly disloyal to make his proposals public
when she was not able to accept them, and they
seemed so easily misunderstood ? Not able to
accept them ? Nannie began to waver. It was
horrible to her that doubts of his good faith had
been suggested. She wanted to do something at
once to show her entire faith in him. Oh, what
would he think of her — would he ever forgive her —
if he fancied her hesitation arose from any doubt of
his truth ?
' What was Aunt Emma talking to you about,
Nan ? ' Patty asked that evening, as the sisters sat
busy at their needlework ; ' she seems to me a silly
sort of woman. I can't see what she wants to go
crying and slobbering over you for.'
' I don't care to tell you,' said Nannie, with her
little defiant air.
' I've a notion, girls,' said Patty after a pause,
' that Aunt Emma's a queer one. I've been adding
two and two together for years, and that's how the
sum comes out.'
'I don't believe it!' cried Nannie; 'you are
40 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
always fancying things against folk, Patty, and
adding twos and twos together, as never were
meant to be added. Even if things look strange
against people,' she cried, remembering her sister's
warnings about Sir Vincent and her own denials,
which were an impediment now in the way of the
free confession, which had perhaps been her wisdom,
* you shouldn't always think they must be wicked.
I hate that way. I am sure everybody in the
world is a great deal better than they seem ! You
make me frightened ever to tell you anything of
anybody, for you are sure to find evil in it. How
unhappy you must be ! '
' Nannie, you make my head ache with your
vulgar noise,' said the languid Caroline. Patty
changed the subject. ' Child,' said she, composedly,
' father has been talking of Alick again, and wanting
to settle your wedding-day ; ' and she smiled pleas-
antly, holding up the linen she was hemming ;
' you'll do with a few of these tablecloths, I fancy ;
won't you ? ' The girl pushed back her chair angrily
with the words on her tongue —
' I am not going to marry Alick nor no one ; '
but Caroline got the start of her, and took the
wind out of her sails.
' I don't see why Nannie should be married first,'
she grumbled ; ' when I had an offer at seventeen
I said I'd wait a bit. / wasn't so pleased at the
idea of a man fiddling with me. And lu wasn't
deformed like Alick. You have a bad taste,
Alas ! how unfortunate is the way we all go
about, unintentionally taking the wind out of each
other's sails ! Xannie's words were not uttered, for
it infuriated her to hear Alick spoken of so.
' He's the best man in Everwell/ she cried, ' and
no one that he wanted to marry would think twice
if he was deformed or not !' So she kept her secret ;
and people continued to fancy her betrothed to her
cousin, Alick Eandle the prophet.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Bryant, had she been a wise
woman, would probably have confided Xannie's
romance at once to some responsible person. But
she was afraid to inform her husband, and her
brother being on some points righteous over-much,
she was afraid to tell hun. Patty and Caroline
were only girls themselves, and Mrs. Bryant was
a little afraid of them too. Yet the dear child
must not be left to take care of herself. ' She is
not to be trusted ; no woman is ! ' sighed Emma,
and thought it very hard that poor women should be
blamed for what was only natural to them.
Vincent was at the vicarage next day and horri-
fied the poor lady. She had seen him yesterday
standing in the evening sunlight, his eyes bent on
the beauty of the village girl, whose heart he was
42 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
stealing with unmeant vows. Yet here he was
flirting with Georgina ; for Emma did not under-
stand his air of cousinly intimacy, and she could not
imagine Georgie's license of manner exhibited to
any one but an accepted lover. Oh, he must be a
dreadful young man — deceiving Georgina even as he
was deceiving poor, helpless, little Nannie ! Mrs.
Bryant thought with alarm that she would not be
doing her duty to her stepchild if she did not put
her on her guard. Even to save Nannie, it would
not be right to let Georgina be trapped into a
loveless marriage with an unprincipled man. She
resolved to expostulate even with Sir Vincent him-
self, whom personally she did not dislike so much
as her opinion of him seemed to justify. But day
after day passed and the timid woman did nothing,
though her cowardly inaction made her miserable.
She felt ill with distress and anxiety ; and Georgina
perceived that she grew uglier and stupider daily.
Now the clergyman's spirits had by this time
greatly revived ; for he thought the Leicesters had
behaved to him most handsomely under his un-
pleasant circumstances. He was quite resolved not
to bustle away from his cure. For there was no
doubt he had made an excellent impression in the
diocese. He had been to X and had dined
with the Bishop. He had preached in Uggle Grinby,
and invitations were beginning to pour in. The
reputation which had preceded him in his journey
north had expanded in the bracing air of the new
county. It was said that Everwell was a dull
parish for such an important man, and that he had
come thither only temporarily, for rest and health,
and because of his connection with the Leicesters.
Mr. Bryant realised that if he kept quiet he need
not leave his vicarage till he was appointed to a
better one. Meanwhile his wife fell into the back-
ground, and Georgina and he went about together.
Georgina went to a ball at the Sandfords, and
Mr. Bryant appeared for a short tune just to fetch
her away. He found his daughter the belle of the
evening, with a circle of the best young men round
her. Vincent was not present, and Lord George
Frere was making the most of his opportunity.
Nay, Georgina was already patronised by the
Duchess. For the young lady was superbly hand-
some, agreeable, and of excellent manners, and
going, it was said, to become Lady Leicester ; so her
Grace thought it well to begin by civility. The
Leicesters were the oldest family in the north, and
Sir Vincent was Lord Henslow's grandson. Georgina
was clearly a person to be cultivated. Who was
she ? Mr. Bryant's daughter. Who was Mr.
Bryant? A very rising and distinguished ecclesiastic;
supposed to belong to the Xorfolk Bryants, and safe,
people said, for a deanery. But had Georgina
44 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
acquired her bearing in a country parsonage ? Oh
dear no ! she had been brought up by her aunt,
Lady Cookham. The new Lady Cookham ? Oh,
then she was all right. And she was really en-
gaged to Sir Vincent Leicester ? Oh yes — engaged
for some time; but the marriage had been post-
poned on account of his mourning. At least that
was the report, and Miss Bryant had never denied it.
The clergyman was not an hour at the ball, but
this gossip reached his ears ; and he saw the Duchess
speak to Georgina. No, he would not leave Ever-
But it was on the day after the ball that Mrs.
Bryant, thinking the girl in her fatigue gentler
than usual, took upon herself to warn Georgina.
The reader perceives that the occasion was in no
' Georgie,' she began, with the diminutive always
irritating to the beauty from her stepmother's
lips, ' Georgie, dear, you would never think of
caring for a man who wasn't good, would you ? '
They had a preliminary skirmish about the ex-
pression ' care for ' ; which Mrs. Bryant altered to
' marry,' and the girl then asked with an air of
offence whether the allusion was to Sir Vincent ;
and declared it never her habit either to refuse or
to accept a man before he proposed, so that Mrs.
Bryant's conclusions were proved premature and
immodest. Warning Georgina was not easy ; still
with desperate courage Emma persevered. ' My
dear, I'm very much afraid that young man hasn't
a clean heart to offer you.' Georgina yawned and
' Like the rest of them, he regards marriage as
' Georgie, dear,' urged Mrs. Bryant, ' I happen to
know he's carrying on at this very time with another
girl ; a poor girl ; one you never heard of,' said
Mrs. Bryant, fussily, anxious to prevent any sus-
picion from lighting on Nannie. Georgina rose in
high dudgeon. She was half a head taller than
Mrs. Bryant, and looked to the poor woman com-
manding enough for a goddess.
' Well, you arc a vulgar person ! ' she said. ' The
idea of prying into Sir Vincent's private affairs in
this manner and reporting them to me 1 I never was
so disgusted in my life. I am not a child. I know
what men are well enough ; and I know what you
don't seem to know, Mrs. Bryant, which are proper
subjects for conversation and which are not.'
Of course poor Emma apologised and retired in
tears. Her life was one long failure, and she had
Georgina, however, took the hint about the
recusant lover. It had not seriously occurred to
her that his coldness was caused by a rival. Who
46 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
was there at Everwell who could possibly be a rival
to her ? Gerty Sandforcl ? or the hunting young
lady from Faverton who had been at the Heights on
a visit ?
' It is just that creature with the red hair ! ' said
Georgina now ; for her vision was keen, and she had
never forgotten a look of interest which had kindled
in Vincent's eyes when on the very day of her own
arrival, Nannie had come into his field of vision.
She resolved to find out about it.
Mrs. Bryant, having failed with Georgina and done
nothing with Sir Vincent, turned to Alick as a last
resource. Nannie had said he was to know the
whole thing, so there could be no harm in talking
it over with him; and Mrs. Bryant looked upon
Alick as the desirable suitor for her niece, just as
every one had looked upon Ned Bryant as the
desirable suitor for herself in her younger days. As
she walked slowly under the August sun to Alick's
workshop she considered how much better it would
have been if she had taken good advice and
married Ned when she had been seventeen. He
would not then have had that first disagreeable
wife of obscure history and high lineage ; he might
not have become such a fine gentleman himself;
and she would not have had her own past to look
back upon. Georgina would have been her own
daughter, rather dowdy ; and a younger daughter
Emma imagined also as born to herself and her
husband, whose name was Mary, and who would
now be seventeen, with the face and form of ISTannie
Eandle. Silly fancies of course ; but illusion was
ever a source of enjoyment to this poor silly Emma,
now middle-aged and uninteresting. She found her
nephew alone, poring over his Bible, with a plate of
cold and neglected vegetable food by his side, — a
thing called mush, and made, I strongly suspect, of
canary seed. Alick was going to preach immedi-
ately after the dinner hour ; under which circum-
stances, especially as mush is not very seductive,
he was apt to forget to feed himself.
Mrs. Bryant, who had small acquaintance with
her nephew, did not find it easy to open her
business, and Alick did not help her to it. He
wanted to study his preachment and the woman
bored him. He didn't want to talk of Nannie.
The question of how he was to gain the girl had
become a religious one with Alick ; but God's lead-
ing in the matter was not to be learnt from the
wife of the man who had brought the accursed thing
to Everwell. At last, however, Mrs. Bryant said —
48 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
' You are very fond of her, aren't you, Alick ?
You would be patient if you thought she was a
little vain and had had ideas put into her head by a
wicked person ? I don't mean any harm of her,
dear child '
' Who is the wicked person ? ' interrupted
Alick, with abrupt interest. Mrs. Bryant was
startled, and said she had thought he already
' You mustn't think harm of licr, Alick,' pleaded
Emma, earnestly ; ' she's just as innocent as possible,
and indeed has acted jilst as is right. He has
asked her to marry him and she has said No, like
the good girl she is, and if there is an end of it,
there is no harm done to any one.'
Alick had risen abruptly and turned his back
on Mrs. Bryant, so that she did not see the passion
that suddenly darkened and distorted his features.
She continued in her pleading, tremulous tones : ' I
have told you, Alick, because I know you are the
one to save her. If something isn't done he may
talk her over, for I found them together one
evening in the glen, and it wasn't the first time I'm
afraid, and it mayn't be the last, and I am so
afraid he may beguile her with promises and steal
her from you!
Alick had guessed instantaneously who was the
'he' of Mrs. Bryant's confused utterances. He
began to reply, slowly at first in a choked voice, but
quickly crescendo and acceleranclo :
' Then I'll speak to ISTannie about it at once.
And I'll speak to Mm; and if my girl is being
deceived by lying luorcls ctnd led to destruction hy the
temj^tiwj of any man, IF HE IS the king himself,
I'LL STICK MY KNIFE IN HIM AND BE D D FOR IT.'
And Alick turned round, suddenly facing Mrs.
Bryant, who was scared by the fury she had roused ;
but where she stood in the sunny window, he saw a
great darkness with lightning streaks flashing over
it ; and in the middle of it, clear enough. Sir
Vincent Leicester himself with the air of half-
amused disdain, which he had worn long ago in the
dreams of Alick's feverish night. Alick snatched
the knife from his plate and sprang forward upon
the traitor. ' Fiend ! I will send you to your place
in hell ! ' he shouted. Mrs. Bryant screamed.
But Alick had terrified himself quite as much
as he had terrified her. The vision dissolved at
once, and before he had reached his foe he saw the
mere cowering woman, and dropped the knife at her
feet. He had a moment of utter bewilderment,
in which he had no idea of w^hat he was doing,
or where he was. Then his full consciousness
returned ; he remembered every word she had
said, and he knew that rage had overwhelmed his
reason. ' Go away, woman,' said Alick, in a low
VOL. II 23
50 MR. BR YANtS MISTAKE
voice of shuddering horror ; ' you are a fiend. You
Poor Mrs. Bryant fled.
The people assembled in the schoolhouse, which
Alick used regularly now ; but they had to wait for
their sermon. When the preacher came he was
pale and battle-stained, for a terrible anguish had
he endured in the silence and the solitude after the
woman had left him. He understood quite well
what had happened to him in that short moment
of blind and reasonless fury ! He had read his
Bible ; he took every word of it literally ; and so
he knew that for a short time, — thank God, only
for one short moment, — he had been possessed hy a
' Lord, Lord, save me ! ' cried Alick, spreading
his arms to the heavens and speaking aloud with
white face, seamed and twitching, ' take full
possession. Never again let the enemy obtain an
entrance. Thou canst command the devils and
they obey Thee. Cast it out. Leave me not swept
and garnished. Come in and take everlasting
Long the unhappy prophet prayed and wept,
harassed by repentance and dread anxiety for his
soul's welfare. And he took his Bible and pored over
the gentle Gospel words which seemed meant for
such storm-tossed hearts as his. Patience and long-
suffering, forbearance and mercy ; charity, which
hopeth all things, enclureth all things, believeth all
things, — these he perceived were the tender graces
enjoined upon him ; and for reward, All things
working together for his good ; and the promise,
Thou shalt ask what thou wilt, and it shall be done !
Ah ! for grace and strength to obey ! Was it not once
more a test proposed by Heaven of his obedience
and his faith ? His prayers would all be answered,
his conflicts would all be won, if — if he could keep
under and bring into subjection these passions from
the Evil One; anger, jealousy, malice, and all unkind-
ness — ay, even against the man who had deceived
him ; against the man who was, after all, trying to
steal from him his bride. Alick rose from his knees,
strong, he hoped, in the strength of his Lord. He
would walk humbly and delicately ; he would pray
and fast the more. And so he trusted to win the
peace of his soul, and — strange mixture of the
spiritual and the natural ! — win too the heart of the
woman he loved.
So Alick, spiritually restored though still agitated,
preached his sermon ; and then he visited the sick,
and pleaded with this one, reprimanded that, helped
and consoled a tliird, with more heavenly glamour,
with more zeal, and with more consequent good
results, than had Mr. Bryant himself.
For the clergyman also was going about the
UNIVERSITY OF ILLlNOfS
52 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
parish, and I should not be justified in saying that
his methods were faulty or his desire to do good
weak or insincere. But the devil is clever, and
aims his temptations only at our vulnerable points.
He sows our tares in kindly ground, while he lets
our wheat flourish as long as it may. Mr. Bryant
was a good clergyman enough, but a demon had
taken possession of him also, and his prayers for
deliverance were less heartfelt than Alick's. The
people perhaps felt the difference, and for one
convert of Mr. Bryant's, Alick could show ten.
Mr. Bryant began it so gradually that it had
become a habit before he knew of its existence, —
he let it appear that to liis agency was due the
change for the better at Everwell. He gained the
reputation of a saint. It is hard to say how he
could have avoided the false character, but at any
rate lie did not try. Mr. Stokes of Appleside-le-
Hole wrote with the deepest veneration asking him
to undertake the Mission he wished to hold in his
parish in September. Mr. Bryant agreed. Another
parson (who had a very noble parishioner already
acquainted with Georgina) proposed a Eetreat for
clerical brethren, when for a fortnight the assembled
vicars and curates would observe monastic vows
and spend their time in religious exercises. The
Duke was understood to favour the proposal, and had
offered the clergy the run of his park. Would Mr.
Bryant attend, do some of the preaching, give hints
as to his valuable parish method ? etc. Yes, Mr.
Bryant would attend ; temporary retirement from
worldly cares would please him ; also a chance of
advertisement. It was years since Mr. Bryant
had dreamed of promotion. All of a sudden lawn
sleeves loomed before him as eventual possibilities.
AMiy not ? "Was he not a man of influence, a
scholar ? At the Eetreat he resolved to pose as a
theologian. And if his daughter, who already knew
half the peerage, were Lady Leicester All at
once he remembered his wife — Emma — the farmer's
daughter, who had lost her looks and never attained
to style. Xo, she could never make a bishopess.
A quiet lot was appointed for him. He must
submit holily. And Georgina should represent the
cleverness, the success, the gentility of the family.
Meanwhile my poor Emma spent the day with
nerves entirely upset by the Everwell prophet.
Her flight had been arrested by Alick's mother, who
brought her into the parlour and tried to learn what
had happened. ' Ann,' said Mrs. Bryant, trembling
from head to foot, ' I shall be afraid to sleep in my
54 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
bed while there's a man in the place who can look
like that ! '
Mrs. Leach was never at a loss ; she threw her
apron over her head, rocked herself backwards and
forwards, and asked Emma if she said a thanksgiving
every night and morning for having no children.
' ]N'o, indeed I don't,' said Emma.
' You would then,' sobbed Mrs. Leach, ' if you
had a boy with a head like that.'
Emma, who had never been unfriendly with
Ann, felt a great longing for a talk with some one
who had known her as a girl. She said she had
understood every one thought so highly of Alick.
' That's one of the symptoms,' replied Mrs. Leach.
' I have a beautiful head ; but I never could make
no one obey mey ; never. While if Alick lifts his
little finger — ! Cause why ? They are afraid of
his head breaking out, I do believe. I've been into
next week many a time when he's wanted something
I couldn't afford to give him ; like to-day. And he
breaks out at you, does he ? Dear, dear, it's shocking!
And all about two and sixpence for his missionary
box. All the wants of my blessed boy's head are
religiousable and holy ones.'
Emma was relieved to hear half a crown was the
source of his agitation, and gave it at once. ' You
was always the kindest creature, Emma. Yes, I'll
take it, because you are one of the family. It stands
to reason I don't go talking of his head to strangers ;
there's a many don't know he ever had one. It's an
expense, it is. This week now, there he's been
preaching and preaching, and I don't say hey ain't
the sweetest, convinciblest preacher ever come to
Everwell. But it ain't 'paying. Maybe, Emma,
you'd settle a doctor's bill for me now and again ?
but la ! I'd as soon you didn't mention it to Mr.
Bryant. " Jim," says I to the husband I had then,
" I ain't one to talk my affairs on the housetop, and
I don't want my poor boy's poor head flying all
round the place." — " Ann," says Jim, " you are the
prudentest, truthfuUest woman." So we kep it
secret, and Alick along of his head has done a power
of good in Everwell. It's like Gospel times come
again. But I wouldn't have you not to tell Mr.
Bryant, for he might stop the preachings, which
would be a pity for Everwell ; and he might w^ant
to shut my blessed boy's head up and cause the
death of his mother. Men ain't like w^omen, Emma ;
they don't think of what they are doing when they
take a child from a mother. You had experience
of that along of Mr. Bryant, hadn't you ? ' Emma
was naturally affected by this allusion. ' Poor dear,
poor dear,' said Ann Leach, ' you are the feelingest
creature ! Jim always said so. My first Jim that
was. You never knew Jim Leach. He was a very
fine husband ; but not of the good family your
56 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
brother was, Emma. Now Alick, your brother's
son, is a deal what you might call more delicate
looking than Sally there. Alick and Nannie don't
look so ill-bred a couple I'm thinking. He don't
match her so badly as if he had been Jim Leach's
' Oh, what a lovely girl she is ! ' exclaimed Mrs.
Bryant, impetuously. For the first time she had an
opportunity of praising Nannie.
Ann nodded her head emphatically. ' She
favours you, my dear,' she said.
' I don't know what it is takes me so with that
girl ! ' cried Emma.
' You have a mother's heart, Emma, like mine,'
replied Mrs. Leach, who delighted in wandering
round her secret.
' Oh, Ann, what wouldn't I give for a sweet girl
of my own like that ! If you have a mother's heart
you will understand what I feel.'
' I do, my dear. Both my Jims said I was a
feeling woman. It's a pleasure to me to comfort
any one. Let me comfort you, my poor dear sister-
' Doesn't it seem hard, Ann, that my child was
the one to die when I loved her so ? and they don't
seem so very fond of that Nannie. ]\Ir. Bryant was
going to let me have Mary at home with me. He
was very kind about it once he saw how I felt.
And she died. Ann, you were with my baby when
she died and I have never seen you since. Will
you tell me about it now ? '
The reader, by this time acquainted with Ann
Leach, who loved mystery and delighted in scenes,
can easily supply the details of the conversation.
' I'm a poor silly woman, Ann,' had sighed Mrs.
Bryant, 'but I think I'll go mad sometimes looking
at Nannie and fancying I see a look on her that it
is impossible could be really on Sarah's child, Ann.'
' I could tell you a many ideas I have, Emma,
about those children, if I wasn't afraid of Mr.
Bryant, and of Ben who was always uncommon
violent like a bull.'
* Yes — yes — tell me, Ann ! '
' I've thought a deal to myself sitting over the
lire,' said Mrs. Leach, mysteriously ; and then she
drew very close to her sister-in-law, and whispered.
' Ann ! ' exclaimed Mrs. Bryant. She started
from her chair and flung herself into Mrs. Leach's
arms and wept upon her ample bosom. Ann herself
was moved to tears, and she dried her own and
Emma's eyes alternately with a capacious red pocket-
' La, Emma, you are the feelingest creature.
And if it wasn't for Dr. Yerrill's shock mixture,
which I have by me, and which we can pour down
each other's spines, we'd both be in hysterics, and
58 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
objects of suspicion to Mr. Bryant and to Ben
Kandle, who is more like a bull than a brother-in-
law. It's my belief, as I have told you, my dear,
and believe me, or believe me not, I've thought of
it hundreds and hundreds and dozens of times.'
' Dear Edward, I have something so important to
Mrs. Bryant had come in late for luncheon, and
was in consequence much scolded by her hungry
' Now, Georgie, be quiet,' said the clergyman,
pinching her ear. Mr. Bryant put his arm through
his wife's and led her into the dining-room. She
looked so flushed and bright that she reminded him
of the Emma of his youth ; and his affectionate
manner added to the illusive joy which was making
her heart to dance.
' Dear Ned ! ' she was saying to herself, ' no, I
am not afraid to ask him to manage it for me some-
how ! He has always been as sorry as I am that I
did not have her long ago.'
But it was not till evening that she got an
opportunity for the keenly desired private talk.
]\Ir. Bryant was kindly enough, but by this time he
was tired and fussed by his day's work, and Emma
found herself trembling after all. She told that she
had been to see Ann. Mr. Bryant asked if the
change in the woman was not lamentable ; and
Emma could only stammer that she had always been
fond of poor Ann. Mr. Bryant thought it best to
pass over in silence this glaring instance of bad
' Well,' he said presently, ' what did you talk
about ? Her son ? '
' A little. Oh, Edward,' ^she cried, with horrified
recollection, ' I am quite certain that young man is
mad ! ' Mr. Bryant laughed.
' Oh, he's right enough. Was that your wonder-
ful news, Emma ? '
' Xo, Ned, we talked of — Xannie.*
' You are infatuated about Xannie. The Greeks,
Emma, considered Infatuation the first of woes.'
' !N'ed, I don't know how to tell you w^hat Ann
said to me about Nannie.'
' What ?' quickly and suspiciously. Mrs. Bryant
joined her trembling hands round his arm. All the
nice speeches she had prepared fled from her
' Oh, Edward, she is my child — my very own ! '
cried Mrs. Bryant. He flung her from him,
6o MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
' D — n that woman ! ' he muttered. It was all
over with him now. Emma would never forgive
him, and he would be revealed to the world as a
cheat and a liar.
And Emma waited with her hands clasped and
a happy smile on her worn face. Dear Edward's
silence seemed to her of happy omen. Of course he
would have a moment's reluctance before he could
say the words she longed to hear. There were in-
conveniences connected with the darling child, which
had always appeared tiresomely distinct to him.
And most unfortunately, Edward had not taken a
fancy to Nannie. But in a minute or two all would
be right. She knew her affectionate, duty-loving,
'My dearest Emma, you distress me by your
credulity, and I must say by the inattention you
pay to my wishes. Did I not tell you I would not
have that unhappy child mentioned to any one ?
And of all people Ann Eandle is the most dangerous.'
' Oh, Ned, I cannot help it now. Nannie is my
own child ! I can't take no notice of her. Oh, just
think for a moment how happy it makes me !
Ann told me.'
' What did she tell you ? It is the greatest
nonsense I ever heard. You would not believe any-
thing on that drunken woman's authority ? '
' It was all quite sensible what she said, and
exactly what might have happened with two children
just the same age. And I go by a deal more than
just Ann's word. My heart has been drawn to
Nannie from the first moment I saw her '
' Fiddlestrings, Emma.'
' And she is like — so like '
' She has a likeness to you, her aunt. She is a
vast deal more like Sarah, her mother.'
' Oh, Edward 1 How can you say such a thing ?
There is not one shadow of likeness ! '
Mr. Bryant saw he had gone too far and was
' She is like,' said Emma, with the sublime
courage of maternity, ' she is like her father.' ]\Ir.
Bryant started to his feet, white with rage.
' How dare you mention that d — d scoundrel to
me ? ' he said.
Mrs. Bryant collapsed. There was a long silence.
The clergyman again wrestled with himself to
recover his self-possession. Emma hoped she had
impressed him, but she began dimly to recognise
that her husband's dislike to the child was not easy
to overcome. She began to get ready a quiet and
convincing speech, something on this pattern —
' Dearest Edward, at first you did not understand
how I loved my poor child. But when she became
ill and died as we thought, then you realised how
dear she was, and how wrong we had been to desert
62 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
her for our own convenience. And I felt our having
no children of our own was a judgment. And you
told me then, and over and again, dearest Ned, and
I know you meant it, dear husband, that if she had
only lived, I should have had her at home with me
to bring up myself. You said so only a day or two
ago. And now, Edward, here she is, and we can
repair our fault, and God has brought her to us,
and He will be displeased if we refuse to do our
duty, and will bring some other awful judgment
upon us.' All this had Mrs. Bryant prepared.
' What did that fool of a woman say, Emma ? '
asked Mr. Bryant, and the abruptness of the question
scattered her thoughts again. ' Had she anything
to go upon ? any proofs to offer ? Now, Emma,
answer me,' as she stammered forth some futility,
' what did that woman Ann say had occurred ? '
She said Sarah put it into her head first. She
said when they were both quite little, only a few
weeks old, they were as like as twins, and Sarah
said she never would be certain they hadn't been
mixed. Oh, Ned, it is a thing often happens in
books ! Indeed it is quite likely. Sarah and Ann
used to talk about it. I think it was queer of
Sarah. She can't have cared much for her child
to be content with a doubt. But she went on
suspecting, and Ann suspected. But when Sarah
died, Ann thought it was useless to say anything.
She thought no one cared. Oh, Xed, it was because
I never saw Ann in those days ! And she w^atched
Nannie grow up, and got quite certain, and never
said anything till she saw to-day how I cared ; and
then she told me.'
' Is that all she said ? '
' Yes, Edward, I think so ; except about her
feelings and '
' Now listen, Emma,' said ]\Ir. Bryant, glad for
once to be able to state a positive fact ; ' it is a
tissue of lies ; an invention, trumped up by a
designing woman to work on your emotions and get
something out of you.' And he argued the matter
neither unkindly nor unreasonably. Sarah had been
a sensible woman ; the confusing of two infants was
an incident not to be found outside the Family
Herald novels. Ann herself should be fetched and
made to confess the thing a fabrication from be-
ginning to end. But Mr. Bryant might as well
have talked to a wall. Argument was powerless
against a woman like Emma.
She wept and said : ' Edward, it won't make no
difference to me, even if Sarah nor no one thought
it. / know it is true. The likeness is there and you
can't account for it. And I have that within me
which tells me Nannie is my own child. I don't care
what any one says.' Mr. Bryant kept his patience.
' ]\Iy poor dear Emma ! ' he said, caressingly.
64 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
' Oh, Edward,' she cried, ' you won't come be-
tween my child and me ! Ned, you don't know the
dreadful wicked woman I felt when I thought she
had died because I had deserted her. I had cared
more for being comfortable and well thought of, and
having a home, than for my own child ; and God
was angry. I know He was. He gave me a sad
heart, and He never let me have the love of no
other young girl since, such as Georgie.'
He tried another tack. ' But, my love, what is
it you wish to do ?'
' A mother's part to my child. Even if no one
but you knows she is mine.' Fortunately the
project was vague.
' My dear Emma, you cannot rob Ben of his
daughter on such a cock-and-bull story as this. He
would not admit it for a moment. ISTo, Emma, the
thing is so plainly an imposition, — and a clumsy
one, — that I forbid you to take any action in
consequence. I should be false to my duty if I
allowed you to destroy your reputation and your
happiness on account of a designing woman's false-
hood, and a hysterical infatuation. Besides, do you
wish to harm the child herself ? A pretty kindness
it would be to her, I must say, to take her from her
honourable home and throw scorn upon her parent-
age ! You wouldn't get much gratitude from her. It
would be a positively wicked action so long as there
was one doubt of the facts ; and instead of having
only one doubt, you have not a single certainty.'
He enlarged upon this theme. ' A\Tiy, Emma, you
haven't con\dnced me, your nearest and dearest !
How could you expect to convince Ben or the poor
child herself? My love, you would make her
detest you. For her sake, if for none other, you
must keep this fancy, or whatever you choose to
call it, to yourself. Above all, don't say a word to
Ben. He seems a little irritated with the girl. I
tell you, she is a naughty little thing. If you were
to put such an idea into his head, though his reason
would not admit it for a moment, it might give him
a prejudice against the poor girl, which would cause
great unhappiness to her. Surely, Emma, you have
the self-command, for the sake of her comfort and
the happiness of many others whom you love, to
bear your burden, and leave her in the undisputed
enjoyment of her singularly happy and respectable
home ? ' Mrs. Bryant wept. ' You will promise
me, Emma ? My love, I insist.'
She made one supreme effort more. ' Oh, Ned !
But if it was proved, as I am sure it can be — then
you would see her right place would be with her
'No, my dear. It grieves me to disappoint
you ; but I must be plain. It would be impossible.'
She started to her feet.
VOL. II 24
66 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
'Edward ! you have said — so often — if she had
'Hush, Emma. My dearest, very probably
knowing the contingency was impossible, I may,
out of my affection for you, have said rather more
than I meant. But I never contemplated having
allowed you to acknowledge Mary Smith as your
daughter. I should be a fool to dream of such
a thing now.'
' Ned, if she were called our niece ' It was
unbearable. His patience failed.
' I won't have her in the house, I tell you ! I
won't have anything to say to her. Are you mad ?
I have Greorgina to think of as well as you. She is
already sacrificed enough to you,' he exclaimed,
' Oh, Edward ! ' murmured the poor woman,
frightened and reproachful ; and she said no more.
She had put down her last card and he had
About sundown Alick sought his love. As a bird
to its mate, the wings of his desire hurried him
along. He had almost forgotten that he was going
to speak to her seriously of promises and plans.
intermixed with strong warning and a little indigna-
tion. There w^as something wrong with Alick to-
day ; he could only think with an effort, and since
Mrs. Bryant's communication his actions had been
just about half voluntary.
Outside the farmhouse, Alick came upon a
pretty group. Patty, fresh and comely, sat on the
lowest step hemming at the spotless linen which
was to be part of Nannie's dowry. The farmer
smoked the pipe of peace, and listened to Caroline's
voice, mellowed by the distance, as she sang senti-
mental ballads to her piano in the open- windowed
parlour. On the green turf before them were
Nannie and Joe, surrounded by a wealth of gathered
flowers, which her dainty fingers w^ere weaving into
a wreath. Joe, in his working clothes with a gay
necktie, looked a fine handsome lad in those level
rays of the sunlight which touch with glory every-
thing upon which they fall. He had grown fond
of his youngest sister, and was watching her now
with prodigious admiration as she sat among the
flowers ; tossing them about, tying them, and linger-
ing lovingly over the loose yellow roses, the wdiite
pinks and lilies, the forget-me-nots and pansies,
spiked lupines and scarlet lobelias. Joe was by way
of helping her, and now and then she threw some
falling or useless blossom at him with careless
gaiety, smiling when he pricked himself or pulled
68 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
the heads off the best rosebuds with his clumsy
fingers. Nannie was fair as a flower herself; her
brother had adorned her little glowing head with a
spray of myrtle blossom and leaf, and the girl, always
with a touch of coquetry, held a blush rose against
her cheek, as delicate, as pink, as transparent as its
Alick paused as he came up, for his artist eye
could appreciate the picture. Only somehow he
saw himself in it too, a dark crooked figure against
the purple fire of the sky, his back to the sun, and
his longing eyes fixed on the fair girl with the
flowers. And then Nannie sprang to meet him ;
she was apt to forget he was her lover ; she thought
of him as her own particular brother, even as John
belonged to Patty, and Joe (in theory at least) was
a retainer of Caroline. So that her greeting was
warm, and they all noticed it ; except Joe, who
never noticed anything and had wanted to keep
Nannie for himself
Alick noticed it too, and it seemed a good omen ;
surely his leading was very clear ! and that very
morning his uncle had spoken to him and bidden
the backward suitor come to terms with the girl.
So presently, before them all, Alick drew Nannie's
arm in his and led her away down the garden, his
heart swelling with love and hope, and his jealousy
forgotten. They said no word till they had reached
the bower of weeping ash, on the wooden floor of
which Xannie had made Joe carve —
' Here shall we see no enemy, but winter and rough weather.'
They sat down side by side, she looking a little
queen with her myrtle wreath ; and it was still
some minutes before he could speak. Hope was a
rare visitor to AHck, and he was afraid of frightening
' Nannie,' said the man at last in a low voice,
* did you ever read the first chapter of Matthew ? '
Xannie was on the defensive by this time, and
answered flippantly —
' Yes, Alick ; it has a lot of names in it. And
such ugly ones. I don't Hke Jew names at all.'
' Do you remember, lass, about the dream Joseph
had, when the angel said, " Fear not, Joseph, to
take unto thee Mary thy wife " ? '
* Ay. It wasn't pretty of him to need a dream
lest he should think ill of her.'
* Thou would not have had Joseph refuse to obey
the vision, Nannie ? And Mary, thou would not
have had her be disobedient ? '
' It wasn't her dream, Alick. And if I had been
Mary and had hved then, I'd never have married
Joseph without I'd wanted to 1 ' cried Nannie.
' Ah, lass, she was the blessed virgin and would
not have gone against God's leading, I cannot
70 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
believe, Nannie, that you would want to do that.
I cannot believe you mean it when you talk naughty
like that ! ' Nannie was silent for a minute ; then
she said gravely, perceiving that the conversation
was not to be staved off —
' No, Alick ; I wouldn't go against God's will.
But we don't always know what it is.'
' Nannie,' replied her lover, ' God sends visions
still to people if they only look for them. He
didn't end that kind of thing with Joseph and Paul
and such like. God sent me a dream, Nannie,' said
the preacher, with quiet certainty, ' and it had a
message in it for you, just as Joseph's had for Mary.'
Nannie glanced at him but kept silence. ' I saw
thee, Nannie, with flowers about and around thee,
as they are to-night. An angel held thy hand,
lass, and brought thee to me. And we knelt to-
gether at the temple steps, and God Himself
said the blessing over us ; and thou wast my bride.
I saw thee very clear, Nannie, and God's angel
bringing thee to me. And after that we were to-
gether in a garden of Paradise ; and we praised
God together, and where we went there was blessing.'
The girl trembled with the superstitious awe of
Alick which had pervaded Everwell. She raised
her hand and removed Joe's myrtle crown from her
hair, throwing it on the ground ; and she lifted her
downcast eyes and looked at her cousin fearfully.
but said nothing. Till Alick stretched forth his
hands and cried in a low voice of very human en-
treaty, ' Nannie, thou must come to me ! I cannot
go on without thee ! '
' Alick, no ! no 1' cried the girl, much distressed,
and with a feeling, terrible to her, that she had
deceived him ; ' oh, believe me, it wouldn't be right.
I have had no dream, Alick ! and oh, dreams are
such shadowy things ! I have to do with reality,
and I cannot wed you ; because Oh, Alick, 1
do ! I love another.'
Nannie had not believed the confession would be
so hard. She had her hand on Vincent's ring, and
was trying to strengthen herself in the recollection
of her dear lover's embrace on the silent hillside,
and his words of faith and love which had been so
good to hear. But she could not get rid of a slight
feeling of guilt ; and the prophet frightened her.
She expected an explosion of wrath ; but the effect
on Alick was altogether different, and caused her a
degree of wonder which increased her awe. How
was it too that he seemed to know all about her
and her lover ?
' Nannie,' said the preacher, gravely, ' that is not
love you feel for yon man, nor that he feels for you.
If you and he were wedded, it would not be a
marriage made in heaven, and you could not ask
God's blessing on it.'
72 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
' Alick, I could,' interrupted Nannie, faintly ; ' I
am not afraid to speak to God of it ! '
He went on unheeding.
* It's a temptation sent to try you, Nannie, and
you have not yielded. You have discerned God's
leading and have turned away. And now you
must come to me, lass ; and I pray God you may
soon learn what true God-sent love is — better than
any earthly kisses.'
' Did you know I kissed him, Alick ? ' murmured
Nannie, with a shiver. And as he stood silently
looking at her, accusingly and pityingly, with the
same relentless soul -pressure that had set the
people at the prayer meeting confessing their sins
and beseeching mercy, she covered her face with
her hands, and sobbed, and trembled, as if she had
done something wrong, and was in the presence of
a judge. By degrees she told him pretty nearly
all that had passed between herself and Vincent,
making faint efforts to defend herself, and faint
efforts to resist the spell her cousin was weaving
round her spirit by the mere awe of his goodness.
' Oh, Alick,' cried the poor child, ' I do not want
to fight against God ! Maybe you are right, and
it might have been better for us all if I could have
loved you. Indeed I was fond of you. I'd have
been fonder if I could. If I found I had grown to
love you best, I would tell him so. But I will not
go hack of anything unless I am changed to him. I
cannot say no more, Alick. Oh, do try to forgive
me, Alick ! I never meant to deceive you ; and
indeed, indeed there is no call for you to be angry
with him' she ended, anxiously.
' It's cruel work, lass, for a man to love a woman
he cannot wed. Thou must not expect that of thy
lovers, Nannie. If he had not been an honest man,
Nannie,' said the poor gentle prophet, praying in his
heart for a firm hold of that charity which believeth
all things, endureth all things, ' he might have taken
an advantage of thee.'
' Oh, dear Alick, you are good ! ' cried Nannie,
impetuously, grateful for this unexpected confidence
Various members of the family, who had been
spying after them, thought they seemed very affec-
tionate together, and were not seriously disquieted
upon hearing that the bethrothal was not exactly
concluded yet, though Alick had good hopes.
Nannie cried herself to sleep that night, feeling
naughty in her dear secret, and so strongly con-
vinced of Alick's holiness that she was ready to
give at least her soul to him already. And she was
only seventeen, and separated far more than was
wholesome from the lover to whom she had pledged
her heart ; and with no mother nor friend in whom
she could confide. She saw no duty in telling her
74 MR. BR YANTS MISTAKE
father of these intricate matters, nor indeed did
Alick think of betraying her confidence. If Mr.
Eandle were to learn about Sir Vincent, he was
quite capable of flinging ' the red hair,' as he called
Nannie, clean out of the window — a proceeding
unlikely permanently to benefit any one.
But reaction is a law of nature ; so the girl slept
at last, and with a slumber rosy enough, and a dream
of Vincent, and of Viola's ultimate happiness as
her own. She woke telling herself that ' morning
dreams come true,' and she felt most wonderfully
cheered, coming down to breakfast fresh as a daisy
after her short slumber, and longing for her dear
lover, but more for the sake of smiles and play-
making, than for tears about Alick, the awe-inspiring
prophet, who had nearly persuaded her she was
doing something wrong. Alick was not at all so
awful to her when he was not present ; and this
morning the conscience-stricken feeling had passed ;
indeed Nannie felt ashamed of it now and had no
wish to confess it to her lover, for it seemed some-
how derogatory to him. But she did want to tell
him that Alick had been love-making again ; and
that she and her cousin had arrived at what in her
reactionary mood seemed to her a highly ingenious
and satisfactory compromise. Namely, she was to
come to no formal decision between her sweethearts
for six weeks, during which Alick was to treat her
absolutely as a sister, and she in return for this
forbearance was to be much in his society and to
aid him in his missionary work ; at the end of the
probation he was to ask her again and to accept
her answer — 'No,' of course it would be — as
absolutely final; so all her trouble with him would
Sir Vincent came in that morning to see Mr.
Eandle about the pure streamlet he wanted to
connect with the village, and when the long and, to
Nannie, very dull conversation was over, and the
gentleman was going away, he stepped to the
window, where Caroline and Nannie were busy
ironing, and said a few pleasant words, regarded by
the elder sister as an attention entirely to herself.
Nevertheless Nannie found means to whisper with-
out raising her eyes, ' I want to speak to you some
time,' and Vincent answered in the same tone, ' This
evening in the glen.' Then he rode away, and for
the first time they had the delightful excitement of
Vincent, however, was not allowed to go to the
tryst, so innocently requested and so gladly
1(> MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
granted without a strong reminder that he had
bound himself in nowise to bring the confiding
child to harm. He received a visit from Alick.
It was a much calmer interview than their last
upon the same subject. They had both grown
older and it was to be hoped wiser since then.
Alick to-day had himself so well in hand, and
spoke with so much feeling, earnestness, and sincerity
of purpose, that Vincent could not choose but listen,
and indeed with respect. Truly the Christian
graces of charity and forbearance sat well upon the
prophet ! Yet Alick spoke plainly enough.
' I was always afraid of you with her, sir. My
eyes were opened to see there was something in your
mind long ago ; and it was the good spirit moved
me when I asked you to promise there should never
be no courting between you and her. And now
after all you have deceived me ! '
' I gave you no promise,' said Vincent ; but he
was touched, and added, ' There has been no courting
of the sort you feared then between Nannie and
me. It was out of the question with her ; but I
think you were right to warn me, and I am glad to
have the opportunity of thanking you for doing so.
We are on a different footing now, and you must
allow me to say I have as much right to press my
suit upon Nannie as have you or any other honest
' No, sir/ said Alick, gravely but respectfully, ' it
don't make your conduct right. There can't be no
propriety in love-making between Nannie and you.
She ain't fit to be your wife, and you know it better
than she. If you asked her, it was because your
conscience made you do it after kissing her. You
knew, being the girl she is, she'd say No. You
weren't prepared to have her say Yes, and I doubt
if she had, you'd have found out quick enough as
the thing was impossible, and you wasn't able to
carry it through.' There was a sort of terrible sub-
stratum of truth in all this, and Vincent did not
answer without reflection.
* You are wrong if you think I am not ready to
face the responsibilities of the step I have taken,'
he said, quietly.
* Sir,' said Alick, ' I was presumptuous in telling
you she was promised to me, when she hadn't given
me her word ; but I am not surer of my own
salvation than I am sure that I am bidden to take
Nannie Eandle for my wife.'
' I feel a repugnance to that kind of speech,'
replied Vincent ; ' you cannot take her against her
' Sir", if ever you had heard the heavenly voice,
telling you what to do you would not dare to dis-
obey. Am I to resist the will of my God, because
one who could give her no happiness, and who isn't,
78 MR. Bryant's mistake
I'm afraid, set before all things on walking with her
along the heavenly path, and who wouldn't for her
sake deny himself the pleasure of a kiss and a soft
word and a promise which he knew in his heart he
couldn't keep — am I to resist God's will because
that man has stolen my girl's heart from me ? '
Vincent answered kindly — 'That is all non-
sense, you know, about voices and visions. Neither
you nor I have a shadow of right to coerce her. A
true lover would give her up to the man she loves,
and wish with his whole heart for her happiness.'
He held out his hand with his pleasant smile and
signified that the interview was ended. Not so,
' It's easy to talk of what a lover should do, sir,
but I haven't heard so much as that you do love
her yet. I doubt she's no more to you than a
pretty lass who could give you a bit of pleasure ;
and you think it would be enough if you gave her
a bit of pleasure for a while too. You don't consider
as how she'd be miserable afterwards with a husband
who was ashamed of her, and stuck up among folk
who thought her a forward hussy, as let herself
be bought dear or cheap, it don't matter which, by a
man who was bound to tire of her.'
' Come, Alick, we have said enough. I can't
listen to such words of Nannie.'
* Ay, you gentlefolk are mighty careful what you
say of other folk. But you have your thoughts in
your hearts, I reckon. You'll be thmking worse
of Nannie some day and treating her according,
though now you fancy me uncivil because I say
aloud she may be vain, and a bit light, and worked
upon like other women, by the world, and the flesh,
sir, if not by the devil. For all I say that, I love
her and I think more highly on her than you do ;
and it's because I think most of her real happiness
and her growing up a good woman in the place
God has put her, that I'd save her from a bit of
folly now, as might drive her in the end to perdi-
tion. And if you think she wouldn't be willing,
sir — why you know she has turned away from you
like a brave lass, and as things are with us, there
ain't no one she can turn to but me. If you go
pursuing after her and teaching her to overcome her
better self, which knows she shouldn't be thinking
and lusting after you that God has separated from
her by breeding and station and all your ways of
thought, then it's you will be forcing her, and not
giving her her free will and her right to choose,
not the man she fancies maybe, but the man
whom God has appointed for her, and whose love
is strong enough to help her even against herself.
You'll pardon me, if I have said too much, sir,'
ended the prophet.
Within sound of such earnestness, eloquent in
8o MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
its simplicity, Vincent felt himself a dumb idiot.
But then he had heard no holy voices, and was
not nearly so certain as Alick of his own
' Nannie has not turned from me so decidedly as
you think/ he replied ; ' but I will remember what
you have said, and will think it over before I speak
to her next and while she and I are together.'
And he did so. It is confusing work trying to
disentangle one's own interests and desires from
those of other people. But Vincent did ask himself
very seriously a question which ever afterwards
retained in his mind its importance. Had he been
thinking enough of sweet Nannie's happiness ? or
had his hesitation been mainly about semi-imaginary
dangers to himself?
Well, he would not coerce her. He would
continue to see and speak to her as opportunity
served ; but perhaps for the present, it were well
to pose rather as friend than lover. However, he
only said, ' perhaps ' ; and unfortunately that kind of
resolution has small chance of being acted upon,
unless very firmly fixed indeed. One tender glance
from a pair of soft, sweet eyes can prove it an
CHAP TEE XIII
Their greeting was one of great stiffness and pro-
priety, and Xannie tried not to smile. But without
looking at him Xannie knew he was smiling at her,
and the thing was infectious. They even laughed
a little, they were in each other's presence so ridicu-
lously and completely happy. Xannie in her
reactionary mood could be nothing but joyous
to-night. She could make nothing tragic out of her
confession about Alick, and Vincent was by far the
more circumspect and serious of the two. But
every time they met now he was finding in her some
new charm ; yesterday the depth of tenderness and
gentle thought in her starry eyes ; to-night their
innocent sparkle and girlish glee.
' I can't help Alick teasing me once again ' — so
ended her long tale, ' but I do think he will let me
alone after that ! You aren't angry with me, are
you ? ' she whispered, coaxingiy, looking up into his
'Will you meet me every day for six weeks
too ? ' asked Vincent, looking down into hers.
' Oh no ! But don't you see, sir, Alick has
promised not to talk to me about those things.'
' What things ? ' said the lover, putting his
VOL. II 25
82 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
finger on her happy dimple. Nannie lifted it away,
but let her hand linger for a moment round the
' The things you like talking to me about/ said
Nannie, very demurely.
He laughed. ' That is Alick's method of courting
all the same ; it is not fair to give him so much
advantage. Such strong doses of prudence and
theology will be taking effect upon you, Nannie.'
' Do you mean I oughtn't to listen ? '
' You ought to let me sometimes administer an
' What is that ? '
' Here is one,' said Vincent, touching her cheek
with his lips ; ' seriously, my Nannie, I don't like it.
Alick is a powerful fellow. He makes the tables
and chairs run after him, and he has too much
influence over you already. We shall be quarrelling
about him some day. Oh yes ! I see my ring on
your finger now ; but it wasn't there this morning.
It would be better for us both if you wore it
' But '
' I know what you mean by " but." Listen,
Nannie ; I have been scolded by this Alick, and I
am in a horribly unromantic mood to-night. I
have been thinking things over, which is always
dangerous. Our promise to each other, Nannie, is
not definite enough to be very binding. The ring
only means we are allowing ourselves that degree
of intimacy which a probability of future ties may
render justifiable.' Nannie looked frightened.
' I said I knew I oughtn't to bind youl she said.
' I am not referring to myself It is not I who
am not ready to be bound ; it is you. This is not
at all the way I like talking to you, Nannie, but it
must be done ; unless you will solemnly pledge
yourself now, my treasure, to marry me ? That
would be the best way, my sweet one.' She shook
' Still afraid ? Then, Nannie, it comes to this :
you are at liberty to chuck me over any day and
go off and marry somebody else ; and I have no
claim to assert ; and, I suppose, no right to be angry,'
said Yincent, gazing at her anxiously.
' But I shall not do that. I shall never marry
— any one, else' she added in a whisper.
'Then, if you mean it, you must be careful
what you do about Alick. You can't have two
sweethearts, that is all.'
Some spirit of mockery seemed to come into
Nannie, for a suppressed smile played deliciously
round her lips.
' Wliat does it all mean ? ' she asked. Yincent
took her hands in his.
' It means, dear Nannie, that our present relation
84 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
is too undecided and fantastic to last ; we may
manage it for a little time, but soon it is bound to
change into something firmer — separation ; or a close
and a dear bond, betrothal, Nannie. If you mean
it to be that, I won't have you flirting with Alick ;
if you mean it to be separation you shouldn't be
flirting with me,' and he drew her head down on
' Maybe you had better not kiss me any more,'
said Nannie, with smiling eyes. Then she pouted
her rosy lips in an inviting sort of way, and Vincent
had not been human if he had not answered the
remark by kissing them at once. ' But what am I
to do, if I want to speak to you ? ' said the girl ; ' how
could we have said all this with Caroline listening ? '
' How indeed ? '
' Is all that flirting with you, sir ? ' .
' Yes ; horrible flirting.'
' What is flirting with Alick, please, sir ? You
don't suppose he kisses me ? '
' I am sure I hope not.'
' If I wanted to speak to him, I might ask him
to meet me here perhaps.'
' Eeally ? '
' If he wanted to speak to me, I should listen.
Mayn't I do all that ? '
' I don't want to make rules, silly child.'
'Wouldn't it be very unfortunate if we took
up different ideas of what flirting with Alick
' Very. It is exactly what I am afraid of.'
' You mustn't go getting jealous all about
nothing,' said Nannie, with her regal air.
' You acknowledge then, sweet one, that I have
a right to be jealous ? ' He drew her in his arms.
' Nannie, we are not pledged yet ; but I mean to
have you some day ! '
'I wish it was some day now!' breathed Nannie.
' If it isn't a promise, little coquette, it is the
next thins: to it,' said Vincent.
' I think you are silly to be so jealous,' she
He thought so too at the moment ; but days of
separation followed, and the insolidity of the fantastic
bond roused his fears again. Alick had so many
opportunities of strengthening his influence ; he
himself so few, and those so difficult and almost, it
seemed, tins^ed with guilt.
THE TURN OF THE TIDE
The days passed on making no very perceptible
change for any one. Alick continued to fast and to
pray and to preach, now and then working a miracle
or two, to the delight of his followers and the com-
fort of his own soul. In the face of much visible
improvement in the manners of the fishing popula-
tion, no one cared to criticise over-much the methods
of the reformer. And neither Alick himself nor
any one else observed that he was beginning to look
haggard and overstrained, as if his frail earthly
part could scarce endure so much activity of the
spirit. For himself he was quite happy ; he had
a position like that of Isaiah or Ezekiel ; and Nannie
was good to him ; and at the end of the appointed
time God would give him his bride ; for prayer still
seemed to Alick as a Wishing Cap ; and all doubt
of its efficacy, irreverence.
As to Nannie, she thought the complication with
Alick all but at an end ; he had subsided into his
proper position of friend, brother, and spiritual
90 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
adviser. The girl was perfectly contented to go on
for ever as things were. She and Sir Vincent con-
tinued to meet sometimes ; and oh how delicious
those secret meetings were to him no less than to
her ! The one only thing that vexed Nannie at this
time was her dear lover's impatience to have his
darling with him always ; and was not that just the
very prettiest source of vexation that any one could
possibly think of? Nannie did not really want to
be without it ; she was happy as a queen.
But Vincent himself was far more impatient than
he dared to tell Nannie, and that not merely because
his passion was daily deepening and increasing. The
fact was he had begun to recognise the scenery of By-
path Meadow and had grown anxious to be out of it.
The stolen meetings, the endearing words, and innocent
embraces left Vincent restless and unhappy ; he felt
his present relation to the gentle girl unexplainable
if not dangerous ; secrecy and concealments were
abhorrent to his nature. Moreover, though their
intercourse was far too affectionate to suppose the
delicate-minded Nannie's intention doubtful, Vincent
did not feel sure that its fulfilment was certain.
The truce with Alick seemed to him abnormal and
to be distrusted ; he had vague fears of family
influence and atmosphere, and a positive dread of
that detestable monster Common-sense, which indeed
he only kept down himself by vigilance and force, and
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 91
a constant strengthening of his spirit in the beauty
of the beloved. Meanwhile the sweet stolen inter-
One evening, and those summer evenings at
Everwell tempt out the laziest, Vincent met Georgina
and her father taking a late ramble together.
Miss Bryant quickly discovered that the recusant
was hurried as he answered her airy speeches ; and
then noticing that he disappeared in the direction
of the farmhouse glen, she contrived after an interval
to lead her father by the same path. 'Mrs.
Bryant wants some moss for her rockery,' said
the good-natured stepdaughter. After a tune she
paused, to draw breath he supposed.
' I did not know you could climb so well, Georgie,'
said Mr. Bryant.
'Hush, papa,' whispered Georgina. 'We must not
intrude upon those people,' and she pointed to a big
boulder-stone below; 'look; down there in the shadow.'
' A^Hiy, that is Vincent I ' exclaimed Mr. Bryant^
impulsively. He regretted the speech at once.
' The grass is very damp, Georgie,' he said, ' I think
we had better be returning now. Come away, my
dear. I — I am very anxious to get home.'
Georgina could have laughed at her father's
discomfiture. But she threw her moss away with
well-acted agitation, and then hung wearily on his
arm, her head drooping.
92 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
' My dearest child, what is the matter ? ' he
asked, affectionately, hearing a sob.
' Oh, papa ' — brokenly — ' did you see V
'Why yes, Georgie, I did.' Mr. Bryant made
light of it. ' No doubt Vincent thought he ought
to speak to one of his tenants.'
' Such a pretty one ? And put his arm round
her, papa ?'
' No. That would be most improper. I saw
nothing of that sort, Georgina. They were talking
too much perhaps. Give him a laughing lecture
' Oh, papa ! I am so unhappy. I didn't think
he would amuse himself with a girl of that sort.
He is not what I thought ' — sob — ' I am sometimes
afraid he has been only amusing himself with me ' —
dreadful sobs — ' oh ! my heart will break ! After
all he has said to me — since I came here — yesterday
even. I can't bear it !'
' If Leicester has been making love to you,
Georgie,' said Mr. Bryant, hotly, ' we shall soon
bring him to the point. He is upright, I am con-
vinced. But, my dear Georgina, I was afraid — he
had not always been quite so affectionate as my
silly little woman had expected.'
' Papa, I know ; not when people were looking.
I have wondered sometimes. But when we have
been alone ' — sobs — ' I am beginning to be afraid
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 93
he has only been amusing himself. And now to
see him with a horrid girl like that — but indeed
Mrs. Bryant had told me '
' What did Emma tell you ? i\Iy dear child, you
are mistaken about Vincent. I have faith in him.
If he has been paying you attention, I am sure his
intentions are serious,' said the clergyman, with
But Mr. Bryant was far more disturbed than he
chose to admit to Georgina, for anything in which
Nannie appeared as an agent assumed at once
enormous and odious importance in his eyes. The
idea of her beincr Georsrina's rival for two minutes !
That beautiful damsel went to her room in tears,
saying she was too much upset to come down again.
She locked her door, put on her dressing-gown, and
sat down with the greatest interest to alter a bonnet.
Mr. Bryant sought his wife.
' What is this about Vincent Leicester and that
girl IS'annie ? really, Emma, if you had anything to
say, you ought to have spoken on such a subject to
me, not to Georgina.'
' I never said one word to Georgie about
Nannie!' cried Mrs. Bryant, astounded.
'You did about Leicester then. You knew he
was making a fool of himself with that girl ? '
' Oh dear, Edward, who has told you about it ?
It can't be going on still !'
94 MR, BRYANTS MISTAKE
' Why, we saw them together ! Not good taste
on his part, I must say. It's just a vulgar flh'ta-
tion, I suppose ? The last thing I should have
expected of Leicester. You can't mean there is
any serious entanglement ? Why, the man is
engaged to Georgina 1 It is scandalous !'
' I don't know what we have to go upon in
thinking he's engaged to Georgie,' said Mrs. Bryant •
whose ideas and wishes about Vincent had been
getting a little undecided during the last week or
' He has made her in love with him ! That's
what it comes to. You have no conception of that
child's depth of feeling, Emma. She is naturally
much upset by this stupid exhibition of his. I
can't have my girl trifled with,' said Mr. Bryant,
getting hot. ' He shall be made to declare him-
' I'm a deal more afraid of his trifling with some
one else. Oh, Ned, don't you see, now, how necessary
it is I should take care of her ? '
' Well ! ' exclaimed the clergyman, ' I always
knew she was a deceitful, forward minx ; it is
proved now.' Mrs. Bryant was alarmed.
' Oh my, Ned ! What were they doing ? '
' Doing ? Nothing when we saw them ; only
talking there in the glen by themselves. I didn't
think anything of it, except that he'd have been
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 95
better away. It is you, Emma, who lead me to
suppose there is something serious. Come now,
tell me all you know.'
' I haven't rested day nor night since I found
out,' said the mother. ' Poor dear, she doesn't know
what she's doing ! She told me of it herself.'
' How far has it gone ? 'WTiat did she tell you ? '
' She told me he had made love to her and
wanted to marry her.'
'You believed that gammon V said Mr. Bryant,
who was getting more angry every minute. ' Well,
now you ought to be convinced what she is. Oh, it
isn't the first I have heard of her conduct, I can tell
you ! Come now, Emma, as you take an extravagant
interest in this young woman, I beg you'll exert
your influence to get her out of the place. We
can't have Leicester behaving in this way. It's the
sort of thing would damage him immeasurably.'
' Oh, Edward, you are very cruel. If you would
only care a little for the poor dear child, and try to
help licr V
' I am too old for sentimentality. "Wlien a girl
takes to that kind of behaviour, it's precious little
any one can do for her.'
' I can't think, Edward,' said Mrs. Bryant, rising,
' how you can speak so to me, when it's about her, and
when you know that much the very same happened
to me, and yet you thought me good enough to be
96 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
your own wife ; and I have been a good wife to yon,
and you know it ! '
This reproof sobered the angry man somewhat.
' My dear, you were innocent from beginning to
end of that nefarious transaction. I do not expect
to meet your likeness in every vain, flaunting, un-
' Edward, I will not endure it ! She is my
child !' He stamped his foot.
' You are mad, Emma, to go on referring in this
way to what is obliterated.'
Mrs. Bryant joined her hands in supplicating
misery. ' Edward, once before you wanted to make
me deceive. You wanted to pretend I wasn't never
Emma Eandle. It found us out. Every one here
has had to learn that I was Emma Eandle. And
this other will find us out too.'
But her pleading was vain. Mr. Bryant had
embarked on a voyage of deception, and it is the
peculiarity of that excursion that the return journey
cannot be accomplished without shipwreck. He
resolved to press on, disregarding minor accidents
such as mere quarrels with his wife or injustice to
an innocent girl ; if indeed Nannie were innocent.
He hated her so much that he couldn't believe it.
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 97
Mr. Bryant, however, had embarked on this voyage
with a good deal of conscience as cargo. His con-
science told him that to fulfil his duty to his own
former pupil, to the detestable Nannie, and to his be-
loved daughter, he must take some notice of the vulgar,
disastrous, and no doubt guilty intrigue the young
man seemed to have drifted into. Mr. Bryant was
no bad hand at reproving a fisherman or a roster-
monger. He had before now given Vincent Leicester
and his peers many a pleasant hint or friendly
expostulation, which had cost him no special pains
and had not been unsalutary in effect. But those
days of straightforward independence were gone by.
Mr. Bryant wanted the baronet to marry his
daughter, and he had to think twice before offend-
ing a man of that quality.
He was unfortunate in the moment he chose for
his delicate task, for Vincent was in the middle of
a little altercation with his mother ; the subject, his
uncle Frederick Kane, who had turned up again and
seemed to the impatient nephew to have no inten-
tion of ever going away.
' It is so unfortunate, dear,' said the gentle lady,
' that you should have to take so much decided
VOL. II 26
98 MR. BR YANTS MISTAKE
action when you have so little experience. I wish
you would let your uncle advise you a little.'
'My uncle confuses and demoralises me,' ex-
claimed Vincent, ' and I'll be hanged if I stand
him ! ' Vincent as a matter of fact was in the
right, as Lady Katharine would have been the first
to acknowledge had she ever understood her brother ;
but the widow could not approve her son's manner.
In her day young people had always treated their
elders with great deference, and though slow to
admit evil of any one, she did think her son and a
great many of his friends sometimes inclined 'to
' It is your own house, Vincent,' she said, stiffly.
And for five minutes the son sulked too, and con-
sidered — for five minutes — that his mother was a
difficult person to get on with. And before the
five minutes were over in came Mr. Bryant, with
his censures and good advice.
He never produced either. Vincent flung up
his head long before a hint of Nannie had come
into the conversation, and Mr. Bryant did not dare
the risk. Even at the cost of neglecting his duty,
and perhaps harming the soul of his distinguished
parishioner, the clergyman resolved to hold his
peace. His patron might snub him ; and to a man
who has risen a snub is apt to prove fatal. He
resolved to combat the young man's departure from
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 99
propriety by underground means. So he talked
away pleasantly ; unwittingly reconciled the mother
and son ; and was introduced to Mr. Kane, who
was most affable, and won Mr. Bryant's heart com-
pletely, as indeed an ' honourable ' gentleman was
pretty sure to do. There was a conversation after
Lady Katharine's own heart about sermons and
sacraments; how she wished her dear boy could
interest himself in such things like her dear brother !
Vincent was nearly wild with annoyance ; at his
innocent mother, his cynical uncle with his tongue
in his cheek, and at Mr. Bryant, who would not see
he was being befooled. It was very irritating that
Mr. Bryant should be ridiculed at all ; worse tha^
he should lay himself open in this way to ridicule :
mortifying to the young man's vanity that Mr. Kane
should detect in two minutes the clergyman's weak
side, which was only now becoming undoubtedly
apparent to the nephew. Vincent caught himself
wishing that he had followed precedents and replaced
Cousin Septimius by Cousin Augustine, of the ex-
pectations and the priggish disposition.
But the solemn talk about Chrysostom and
Archbishop Leighton went on till Mr. Bryant, having
to hurry away and being flattered into a state of
intoxication, invited Mr. Kane to dinner, that so the
interrupted conversation might have conclusion ;
and Vincent could hardly restrain himself when the
lOO MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
invitation was accepted. He pictured poor Mrs.
Bryant under the visitor's sarcasm, and could have
kicked the clergyman for exposing her to it.
Mr. Bryant, however, went home in high good
humour, and expatiated so much on the honourable
gentleman's affability and pedigree, that Georgina
tossed her head and said pettishly, ' Dear me, papa !
you seem to think I don't know who anybody is.'
Nevertheless the young lady was pleased to think
Mr. Kane was coming to dinner, and she resolved to
captivate him. He might be useful with Vincent.
' I will wear blue muslin,' she reflected, ' for
sweet simplicity is what pleases elderly men. Boys
prefer satin and Venetian point. At Sir Vincent's
age it seems that stuff petticoats and thick shoes
are the attraction. I wish papa had told me what
he was going to do with that minx.' For Georgina
quite recognised her father's difficulty. Nannie
must be suppressed quietly. If Vincent's name got
mixed up in a scandal, no virtuous clergyman could
favour him as an immediate candidate for his
daughter ; and there was the risk too of offending
the erring gentleman himself by direct action.
' The idea of his preferring red hair ! ' said Miss
Bryant in great wrath, as she petted her brown
plaits lovingly. ' But how silly he is ! He may
have all the red hair and all the stuff petticoats in
the world for aught I care, if he doesn't put the
THE TURN OF THE TIDE loi
creatures out of their place. I have read the Bible.
The moment Hagar got into Sarah's way she was
turned out ; that is what I must see done to this
horrid little Hagar. I am really in love with
Vincent, I believe. If I had to choose between
him and some notable prince, I fancy I should stick
to Vincent ; always provided I was certain of getting
him. If he goes flourishing Hagar in this way
before my very eyes, he mustn't be surprised if I
accept the first eligible offer that turns up. But in
this hole of a place there is no one to make an offer.
This Mr. Kane? He is no good; he has no money;
I am certain aunt told me he had a wife — black, I
suppose — and a nest of fledglings somewhere in
the States. Je n'aime pas ga du tout, clu tout, du
tout. But he may be of use to me with Vincent.
I see clearly I must be civil.' So she sewed fresh
ribbons on the blue muslin, smiling and feeling-
equal to conquering all the men in the world. She
had a firm belief in herself, and always fancied
Helen, Cleopatra, and all other irresistible women
must have had just her face, her voice, her charming
manner, and false smile.
Half an hour before the aristocratic guest was ex-
pected, Georgina contrived to reduce her stepmother
to tears ; by Georgina's advice Mrs. Bryant had
arrayed herself in her second best gown, and the
young lady now expressed astonishment to find it was
102 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
a rather soiled yellow satin carved out with black
lace. ' It is not becoming/ said the girl, staring
mercilessly ; and after the flood of tears alluded
to, which was very provoking to Mr. Bryant, dis-
turbed already by his wife's apparel, Greorgina said
with mock sympathy —
' Now, papa, I think it is cruel to make Mrs.
Bryant come down to-night. She really looks too
ill to appear.'
' Kind little girl ! ' said the clergyman, relieved.
' Do what you like, my dear Emma ; ' and he kissed
her, lest she should be hurt by her dismissal. She
was by the manner of it ; for Georgie had explained
to her that in the language of the world ' How ill
you look ! ' always means ' How ugly ! '
Mr. Kane, malicious and fond of comedy, had ac-
cepted the clergyman's invitation not from any wish
to study theology, but because on Sunday he had
recognised Mr. Bryant's face, and, after some racking
of his brains, had recalled to mind a smart lad in
an apron behind a grocer's counter in a country
town many years ago.
'Your parson seems a good man,' Mr. Kane
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 103
remarked to Lady Katharine on the way home ;
' one of the Norfolk Bryants ? '
' Yes, I believe so,' said the widow ; ' but oh,
Frederick, it is so unfortunate — he has a very curious
wife ; it makes such an awkwardness ' And then
she went on to praise Georgina with pointed effusion.
'The parson's must be a singular household,'
observed Mr. Kane, drily. ' I didn't know I should
find a comedy theatre here. Vincent has, I see,
a fine understanding of the needs of life. Hallo!
there goes the beauty with the red hair. She runs
Miss Bryant hard. Is that showy girl with her a
sister ? Another beauty, I declare. Katharine,
have you studied history ? '
' History ? '
' Such a work as Gibbon's Decline and Fall ?
You will learn from it that when a young prince
surrounded himself with comedians and beauties, he
was in a dangerous position.' Lady Katharine
smiled, without understanding her playful brother's
joke. ' I should dismiss Miss Bryant at any rate,'
he whispered, glancing at his nephew ; ' your dear
boy will get on better without such very handsome
young women worshipping him. There is a hint
for you, my sister,' said Mr. Kane. And he went
to dine with the parson to spy out the land.
A very pleasant dinner it proved, the vulgar
wife being out of the way. The conversation was
104 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
brilliant, and the young lady a model of grace. Mr.
Kane was much at his ease, having a liking for
handsome women ; indeed, under favourable circum-
stances he might have fallen in love with Georgina
' The child's easy, perfect manner is delightful,'
said Mr. Bryant, in a frenzy of delight, having run
up after dinner to see his wife.
' I like girls a bit more distant,' said Mrs.
Bryant, tired of Georgina's praises.
But after the handsome daughter had retired Mr.
Kane lingered for half an hour with the clergyman ;
and felt the time had come to put out his claws. He
would unmask the pretentious fool. With a man like
Mr. Bryant any degree of rudeness was justifiable.
Mr. Kane began by admiring Georgina. ' Did I
hear a rumour,' he said, lazily watching his smoke
(Mr. Bryant hated smoke, but was willing to sacrifice
himself for any one connected with the nobility),
' that she and my nephew were engaged ?'
The clergyman's proud heart beat, but he had
modestly to deny the report. There had certainly
been a passage between the young people, but
Mr. Kane sat up straight and defied his host. ' Oh,
Vincent has drawn back, has he ? I suppose he
had become aware '
' Of what, sir ?' asked the clergyman with out-
ward calm, but noting the change of manner, and
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 105
sitting up in his turn. Mr. Kane laughed dis-
agreeably and did not reply at once. Mr, Bryant
felt himself crimsoning without knowing what to
'When did you leave Karley-le- Street, Mr.
Bryant?' asked the guest; and so plainly did the
name of the country town mean ' grocer's shop ' that
the clergyman believed the offensive epithet had
been actually used. A slap on the face could not
have disconcerted him more thoroughly. For once
he had no reply ready, and Mr. Kane chuckled with
' I had no idea it was a secret,' he continued ;
' pray don't be alarmed. I will not betray you.
But I remembered your face so well. Had my
nephew some other reason then for drawing '
' The drawing back, sir,' interrupted the clergy-
man, with dignity, 'has been on Miss Bryant's side.
I should require to know Sir Vincent's character
better before I could entertain his proposals for my
daughter. He may not be her equal in worth
though her superior in position.'
This was all very well ; still Mr. Kane, seeing
the man he had to do with, pushed his point. ' I
should be sorry,' he said, ' by my accidental recog-
nition to make your position here disagreeable.'
Mr. Bryant reversed his tactics. The man was
io5 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
'You mistake me, Mr. Kane. Sir Vincent is
welcome to know the whole history of my family.
Has he not told you that my wife's brother, Mr.
Eandle, is farming in this place ? '
'Did you say Eandle ?' asked Mr. Kane. The
clergyman, absorbed in restoring his own shattered
dignity, did not notice if his guest now seemed
curiously interested, perhaps startled. Mr. Kane did
not finish his cigar. After all that plain speaking
they could not fall back into compliment or theology.
Mr. Bryant thought he seemed almost a little
flurried at his departure.
After turning that bit of talk round and round
in his mind, the vicar of Ever well came to the con-
clusion that it had been not only humiliating but
menacing. The foreseen opposition to the marriage
on the part of Sir Vincent's relations had begun.
He talked it over rather explosively with his
wife ; who felt in arms against all the ladies and
gentlemen in the neighbourhood, and especially
against this Mr. Kane, supposed too fine to sit at
table with her.
' What I want to know, Emma, is how he has
learnt so much about me .' I never saw or heard
of the man before. Now, did you V
' I hear of Lady Katharine's brother ? I never
knew she had one.'
' I shall ask Ben.'
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 107
'Oh dear, what does it matter?' cried Emma,
' He seemed to have heard of Ben. I wish you
would think, my dear.'
'I always told you, Ned, that some one was
sure to mention the shop some day,' said Emma.
' There was no good in hiding it.'
' I have never hidden it !' said Mr. Bryant,
angrily. ' You are very testy about Mr. Kane, my
'You lived a deal nearer Lord Henslow's than
we did, Ned. Ben, nor I, nor none of us knew
anything of the family, except Lady Katharine, be-
cause she married Sir Charles. Oh dear, Ned, I do
think if you'd had any sense, you'd never have come
to this place, to mix me up with grand folk I had
seen as a girl.'
' I believe you are right there, my love. Well,
we must go away as soon as we can ; but we can't
go till we have a home somewhere else ; and till —
till ' He was referring to Georgina's marriage
of course. ' Mr. Kane is inclined to be antagonistic,'
he said, musingly.
' Oh do, for goodness sake, stop about Mr. Kane !'
cried Emma ; ' you have gone quite crazy, Ned, about
He felt rebuked, and was silent. Emma's un-
willingness to discuss the visitor had, however,
.io8 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
annoyed him, and he imagined a hundred complicated
reasons to account for it.
Theee are not many well-conducted houses in the
United Kingdom where Sunday is a thoroughly
comfortable day ; for great survival of Puritanism
dogs the serious of all persuasions like a shadow.
Of course to clergymen and others who have
taken up religion as a profession, Sunday is a feast
of grinding labour ; to preach three, or even two,
sermons within twelve hours is no joke. Nor is the
seventh a day of rest to the clergyman's daughter.
Such an one I have known : a slim girl of eighteen,
who goes fasting to early communion ; returns three
quarters of a mile for a hasty breakfast ; then
teaches, as she calls it, some fifteen inattentive
Sunday scholars, who have come to school as a
favour. She has time to swallow a jujube before
church, where she plays the organ and leads the
singing, and tries to stay awake during her father's
sermon lest he should catechise her about it at the
hasty dinner which follows the return home ; then
comes another Sunday school, longer and hotter and
noisier than the morning one, after which Isabel has
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 109
charge of her little brothers and sisters in the school-
room for two hours, to relieve the governess. And
then there is church again at half-past six ; and
after church, her father being a very zealous clergy-
man, there is hymn-singing or other religious dissi-
pation in the parish room, at which Isabel has the
harmonium of course, and the general superintend-
ence of flaring and odorous paraffin lamps, w^et
umbrellas and greasy hats, of old men who fall
asleep and by their snores introduce the ridiculous,
youths who paraphrase the words of the hymns
and ogle the girls, while these latter giggle and lean
across each other to whisper that Miss Isabel has a
new bonnet and Jim Smith is cultivating whiskers.
At last Isabel gets home to supper, and papa has
brought the curate with him, who is good and nice
and rather in love with Isabel, but who is not
brilliant, and whose idea of conversation is that
she shall find all the subjects, make all the
jests, and ad\dse him wdiat to read at the next
Temperance meeting. Papa kisses his darling when
she goes to bed, and hopes she has had a happy day,
and Isabel says dutifully Yes ; but bursts into tears
as she reads her chapter at night in the solitude
of her very chilly bedroom, feeling keenly in her
physically weakened condition that she is an un-
profitable servant much threatened by the prophet
Isaiah. Such things I have seen, and in more than
no MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
one English parsonage ; but it is needless to remark
not at Everwell, for Georgina Bryant was not
made on the pattern of my gentle and dutiful
Many people there are too who do not work so
desperately hard, and who yet feel rather low-spirited
and weary by the time for bed. Lady Katharine
Leicester, for instance, though she would not have
said so for the world, never found a straight-backed
pew, with its sitting board covered by a thin carpet,
at all the same as the nice arm-chair in which she
reposed in her drawing-room. But she always went
twice to church, because she got tired of reading
sermons or making Sunday talk at home. And
though she attempted no positive interference with
her son's pursuits, she indulged him sadly, and
always wanted him to be doing something else
' when the servants came in.' Vincent laughed at
her and took his own way of course, but the un-
spoken disapproval bored him, and he liked to get
out of the house on Sunday, in his little boat alone
on the dancing waves, or far away over the moors
on his good steed, Pegasus.
' How pretty he is ! ' said Nannie, one August
evening, timidly touching the fiery nostrils as Vin-
cent drew bridle to speak to Mr. Eandle, who with
his large family, and Alick his nephew, was sunning
himself and feeling important in his Sunday best.
THE TURN OF THE TIDE in
Vincent had been staying with his grandfather for a
week, and it was ten days since he had even seen
' Were you ever on a horse ? ' he asked her.
' Oh yes ! I used to climb up on the colts and
ride them about the fields ! But I should have
been frightened if they had stamped and snorted like
Alick got a vision then of a picture he remem-
bered long ago : a field with a low hedge and a few
pollarded oaks, in one corner a little pond reflect-
ing the sunset ; and the white, s]3irit-like figure of
a slim child seated erect on a dark, bare-backed
galloping thing, long-legged, awkward, half- fright-
ened ; the girl with white arms clutching the mane,
slender ankles pressed to the panting sides, her hair
streaming on the wind, her eyes gleaming, and her
lips half open to drink in the flying breeze. And
he turned and frowned strangely at the decorous
maiden by his side, Bible in hand and all her
wealth of rich locks softly coiled up and nearly
hidden under her Sunday bonnet. But she smiled
at her dear lover, and Vincent smiled too. He was
thinking he would like to pick Nannie up and
gallop away with her in the summer sunshine.
Her afternoon's destiny was different.
Later, Vincent, returning from his ride and
picking his way cautiously over the flat rocks
1 1 2 MR. BR YANT 'S MIS TAKE
deserted by the tide, came upon a group of the
fisher folk assembled here on the beach, with
Alick in their midst and Nannie beside him holding
his arm. They were singing one of the sweetest of
all modern hymns, and the Everwell voices, un-
accompanied save by the lapping of the little waves,
were rich and true, the words falling quite clear
and distinct from Alick's lips as he led the song.
Vincent paused to listen, not liking his Nannie
standing up there so importantly with the crazy
My Father's house on high,
Home of my soul, how near
At times to faith's far-seeing eye
Thy golden gates appear !
Here in the body pent,
Absent from Him I roam,
Yet nightly pitch my moving tent,
A day's march nearer home.
Nearer home ! A day's march nearer home.
The meeting broke up after this, but the people,
all quiet and orderly, lingered round Alick ; and
Nannie, the little Mary Anne clinging to her gown,
stole aside to say a word to her lover.
' Have you come through the village, sir ?
Don't you think it is very different from what it
was that Sunday last year when Alick took you
round ? It is all his doing ! ' she said, proudly,
just as long ago she had talked of his drawings.
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 113
Vincent had indeed been struck by the changed
aspect of the many once brutal faces ; but he
admitted the improvement grudgingly. He had
grown to loathe speaking to Nannie with this public
indifference, when even a moment's solitude meant
kisses and her dear hand clasped in his and pressed
to his heart. As he rode he had been saying
to himself, ' I cannot and will not go on with it.
It is derogatory to lur. While I loved her just a
little, it was possible — pleasant ; now it is torture ;
it is wrong — it is unendurable.' This suppressed
emotion made his aspect sombre ; and at Nannie's
words new cause of offence arose. Why did she
praise Alick in this way to him ?
' Don't you get tired of the psalm - singing,
Nannie ? ' he asked, abruptly.
' Sometimes,' replied the girl, ' but I know I am
' Why ? '
* Because,' she answered, colouring nervously,
"■ religion is the chief thing ; and it is right to — to
pray.' Vincent took her up sharply.
' Eeligion is only the sum total of our daily lives ;
and prayer, Nannie, is no more than the cry of the
soul.' She looked up with her quick perception
and sympathy, but made no answer. And she re-
joined her cousin, feeling conspicuous standing there
with her sweetheart. Vincent's idea of conspicuous-
VOL. II • • 27
114 MR, BRYANT'S MISTAKE
ness was different, and his heart beat with annoy-
ance as she left him. He had not known that she
was connecting herself with Alick in this public
way; and when he had seen her last she had been
playfully unwilling to be catechised as to her
management of the rejected and pertinacious ad-
mirer ; and he had gone away smiling, and telling
himself that, like all other women, she was a
desperate little coquette. But Vincent did not
smile to-night. Good Heavens ! if his fears were
to be realised and she were after all to slip away
from him !
Vincent lingered, his horse's bridle over his arm
and his air that of one wanting to pick a quarrel with
some one. ' Why weren't you gathered in the school-
house this afternoon, Alick ? ' he asked, for some-
thing to say. Unwittingly he had touched upon a
sore subject, and the prophet's aspect of heavenly
exaltation suddenly vanished. He answered ex-
' Sir, the door was shut. The parson has turned
against me and would have me speak to the people
no more. And,' he cried, his eye flashing, ' yon
heathen parson had put a purple table-cover on the
church's holy table, and flowers and candles, as they
have in the popish chapel by Tanswick. I took
them away last night, but I doubt, sir, it's the
beginning of the end.'
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 115
' How do you mean you took them away ? ' asked
' I was bidden to do it, sir,' shouted Alick ; ' if
there is heathendom in Everwell, the Lord's hand
will be turned away from us.'
' You will go at once, if you please, and put the
things, whatever they are, back in their places.'
* No, sir ; I threw them in the sea,' said Alick.
Vincent surveyed him in astonishment, for this was
the prophet in quite a new aspect.
' You did ? '
' I will serve God rather than man,' said
' Don't be angry with him,' whispered Nannie,
softly, and Vincent flashed an impatient look at her,
the first she had ever had from him. AVhat did
she mean by setting herself on Alick's side in this
way ? The man seemed, under his present aspect,
as distorted, as repulsive, as the uncompromis-
ing dissenter has generally appeared to the child
of the world, ever since the days of Eoundhead and
Cavalier when the dissenters for once got the upper
hand and contrived to disgust the nation for the
remainder of time.
' Your presumption is intolerable, man,' said Vin-
cent angrily ; ' probably it is the beginning of the end
— the end of your career as preacher. If you set
yourself in opposition to Mr. Bryant, I shall look
Ii6 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
out means of stopping your mouth. You may
'You have no power over me, sir/ said Alick,
planting himself defiantly before the gentleman.
It is easy to suppress a man guilty of robbery
and sacrilege, whatever his pretext/ said Vincent,
stepping back, as if offended by Alick's proximity.
•'The sacrilege was in him who put the popish
idols in God's house. I will pay you the worldly
value of the table-cloth and the candles, so it ain't
'Thank you. Your tone is insolent, Alick.'
They eyed each other for a moment.
' Nannie, let me say a word to you/ said Vincent.
The authoritative tone roused Alick still more.
' What have you got to say to my Nannie ? ' he
said, throwing himself between them. Vincent
turned round and stared at him. His Nannie
' Hands off, my good fellow, if you please.
Come here, Nannie.' The girl, who had turned
very pale, obeyed.
Alick had a choking sensation as if he were
going to be possessed by a devil again, as when Mrs.
Bryant had maddened him. But he fought it off,
or at least its outward gesture. Vincent, however,
saw the lightning of sudden fury in his eye,
and the fit of trembling which shook his meagre
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 117
figure. He kept his eye on the fanatic as he said,
clearly and rather loud, for he wished Alick to hear,
' You must give him to understand, Xannie, that
this kind of thing is altogether improper, and I will
not have it repeated. Mr. Bryant is not to be in-
sulted and the religion he and Alick both profess
Alick turned suddenly and walked away along
the rocks towards Tanswick, and Xannie watched
him with a distressed and frightened look. But
that little impatience Vincent had exliibited a few
minutes ago had agitated her.
' Are you angry with me ? ' whispered JSTannie,
looking up at her lover on the tall horse ; and if
they had been alone forgiveness would soon have
invaded his suspicion. But he only said,
' I am angry with Alick ; you best know, Nannie,
whether I have cause to be angry with you or not.'
And he rode away, without another glance at her,
for several eyes were on them, including those of
Xannie's brother, and Vincent was afraid for her
sake to provoke criticism.
' I knew how it would be,' he muttered to him-
self, lashing his horse ; ' women like that kind of
psalm-singing humbug. I must put a stop to this,
or we shall be getting into trouble.'
1 1 8 MR. BR YANT 'S MIST A KE
Nannie left Joe abruptly and made her way home
alone. There were tears in her eyes, for she felt
her dear lover was displeased. Yet on this occasion
her sympathies were with her cousin, for the fanati-
cism which seemed so ridiculous to the gentleman
was perfectly comprehensible to her, and she knew
how little vanity, how much moral courage, there
was in Alick's deluded soul. Alas ! Vincent was
justified in believing that Alick's prayings and ser-
monisings were influencing the girl. There was a
persuasiveness about the man in these exercises which
every one felt, and which was sometimes irresistible
to the sensitive young creature too ignorant to dis-
cern the point at which he erred. How was she to
make people understand that Alick was of import-
ance to her not as a lover but as a spiritual director ?
For neither Nannie nor Alick understood, as indeed
few priests and good women of any persuasion do,
that ' in the mixing up of things lies the great Bad ' ;
whereas the ordinary man feels it instinctively, and
even when there is no suggestion whatever of love-
making, cannot forgive his women for running after
Jesuits and evangelists, zealous curates, and sweet
preachers. Nannie went sadly home, fearing that
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 119
her lovers were likely to quarrel. In a combat
Vincent would inevitably be victorious. Will you
believe that Nannie could not imagine that event
with satisfaction ? She did not want manifesta-
tion of his strength against Alick. Alick was
dear to her faithful heart from early association :
and when she thought, as she often did, of his
' beautiful soul,' and believed him nearer heaven
than the man she loved, Nannie felt that a contest
in which her cousin should be crushed would not
exactly endear to her the victor.
Meanwhile Alick in his flight was suffering
more acutely than Nannie. A few days ago he
had been smitten down with one of his bad head-
aches, and since then he had not only felt ill,
but his serenity and loftiness of mien had given
way a little. He had become feverish in his manner,
fussy in his work, less authoritative in his tone.
Moreover, the Christian graces of charity, forbear-
ance, and gentleness, which he had so successfully
cultivated, became all at once most extraordinarily
difficult. Alick felt sinful and unhappy ; then he
took to self-ordained penances of the old monkish
sort, — eccentricities which, described to Vincent on
his return by old John Price, the prophet's devout
admirer, had filled the worldly young gentleman with
amazed and suspicious repulsion. In spite of the
penances Alick felt sinful still. And now on this
120 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
Sunday afternoon, after preaching very fervently but
with much weariness of body ; after talking ex-
citedly with Sir Vincent about the lying parson and
then losing his temper upon hearing his rival address
a single and quite harmless sentence to Nannie, Alick
again arrived at the painful conclusion, which once
before had for an hour nearly broken his heart, —
that he was possessed by a devil. Good God ! what
a position ! A prophet like Isaiah and Ezekiel, but
possessed by a devil ! possessed by a devil, like the
man who wandered among the tombs, cutting himself
and allowing no one to tame him ! ' Heaven have
mercy upon my soul !' groaned the unhappy prophet.
It was Sunday, and Alick had no work ; his
trade had been laid aside, and he had long
grown too pious to waste time over pictures.
Yet pictures haunted him still — pictures which
were not steady to his eyes, but were evermore
changing like dissolving views and running into each
other like things in dreams. This afternoon he was
bothered by that picture of the child ISTannie on the
bare-backed colt in the field at Faverton. But every
now and then the colt stopped short, and the girl
fell — surely he heard her shriek ? — into the little
pond which reflected the golden sky. There was a
splash and the ripple went round and round like a
whirlpool ; and then a white figure rose to the
water's surface and floated there, the colt stretching
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 121
out his neck and looking at the strange thing with
innocent awe. ' It would make two pictures/
thought Alick, and began tracing the outline with
his finger on the sand. But he found, to his horror,
that he was drawing something altogether different ;
and he remembered presently that it was impious
work, not to be thought of on the Sabbath. ' Prayer
and fasting ! ' he groaned in remorse for the evil
impulse, and hid himself in a nook of the deserted
shore, his Bible in his hand, but his thoughts stUl
wandering and sad. Once he looked up and
fancied he saw Sir Vincent there, half undressed, as
if he had been bathing, his dog leaping at his hand.
But it passed from his eyes and he did not think of
it again. That white figure floating on the pond at
Faverton would not pass. Was Alick dreaming or
awake ? He could not tell. A horrible sensation
came over him that he had murdered the girl and
thrown her into the water ; and now somehow the
pond had changed into the Everwell sea, and he felt
with sickening horror that he had flung the child
over the precipice near Dr. Verrill's house and had
drowned her there. After a moment Alick recog-
nised that he had done nothing of the kind, and that
it was all a passing fancy. What were these hate-
ful fancies that came to him nowadays ? Surely he
was possessed by a devil ! He did not feel well this
afternoon ; perhaps he was getting one of his familiar
122 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
and salutary brain fevers. He would go and see Dr.
Yerrill, who knew his constitution and would pre-
scribe some simple diet to set him to rights. Alick
set forth slowly up the cliff by the narrow precipice
path to the doctor's cottage. As he was entering
the garden, with its strange odour of unwonted
herbs, the bells began to ring from the church, and
the familiar sound seemed to exorcise the demon
that had tormented Alick. He paused, leaning on
the little gate. What on earth was he going to the
doctor for ?
Just then the little philosopher and his sister
emerged from the house, dressed for evening church.
Dr. Yerrill looked very funny all in black, with a
tall hat, his long red hair brushed perfectly smooth
and his week's beard shaved. Miss Verrill looked
funnier still in a very small felt hat and a white
tulle veil, a coat like her brother's, and a silk skirt,
held up with both hands and still frequently tripped
over. ' Why, Alick, my man,' said the doctor, ' you
are a stranger to us. Have you been at the Farm V
Alick made a cheerful and perfectly untrue
statement about himself and Nannie, his one idea
being to prevent the doctor from suspecting that
ecstasy of his on the seashore, and that he had
half fancied himself taking an illness ; he did not
notice or did not care that he was lying.
' I cannot see what all you young men and young
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 123
women want to be marrying for/ grumbled Dr.
Verrill ; ' the mind never grows after marriage.'
And his sister added —
' I am glad you and Nannie will be united, Alick.
Though in my judgment a woman is superior single,
I consider a man without a definite female to look
after him such a poor creature, that I could not
desire the fate for any favourite of mine.'
Alick smiled his thanks for these congratulations
on his reputed engagement to pretty Nannie ; but the
doctor suddenly felt his pulse, and thrust a clinical
thermometer under his tongue with a frown, and a
recommendation of a brown bread steak and a pease
' I am very thankful to God, sir,' said the invol-
untary patient, mildly, ' that I get my health so
much better than I did.'
Me. Bryant, being rather afraid of Alick, had
thought it best to take small notice of the fanatic's
onslaught upon his altar-cloth, candles, and flower
' Ah, poor foolish fellow ! ' said the clergyman,
' one respects his courage ! And we have got a new
124 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
altar-cloth from Helbronner's. Georgie and I have
just put it up. I didn't irritate him by producing
it this morning without explanation, but he doesn't
attend the evening service.'
'You don't take Alick seriously enough,' said
Vincent, still sombre in his mood. And a little
later, having seen the prophet after all join the
evening congregation, he went to church himself,
anxious, like every one else, to see what Alick was
' going to do.'
The vicar was in the act of pronouncing the
final blessing after his sermon that evening when
Alick Eandle, very pale and very resolute, rose quite
suddenly in his pew; and said in that clear, forcible
voice of his, which was not loud, yet which always
commanded attention, ' The Lord has sent a message
to this people to-night by me ! ' Nannie uttered a
little cry and half rose too, looking appealingly at
Sir Vincent, and Mr. Bryant lost his head and did
not proceed with his valediction for a distinct
interval. No one heeded him ; all eyes were fixed
upon Alick. Sir Vincent now left his pew, and
with firm step, purposely rather noisy, he walked
down the aisle to the prophet.
' Brawling in church is illegal,' he said distinctly.
All the people were standing up now, peeping over
the tall pew-sides at the two men. Vincent stood
with his arms folded and his eye fixed on the
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 125
fanatic, i'or a moment it seemed as if Alick were
going to dispute his authority, then he suddenly
quailed, almost collapsed, swaying as he stood and
clutching Xannie's arm for support. Mr. Bryant
had come to by this time and accomplished his
benediction ; then the organ played rather hysteri-
cally and the congregation moved, Vincent waving
them out with an impatient .gesture. The building
was quickly emptied, except for the shuddering Alick
Eandle and Sir Vincent, who was guarding him;
Nannie, who was holding her cousin's limp and
frozen hand ; and Dr. Verrill, who was measuring
out his shock mixture. ' Not that tomfoolery now,'
said Vincent, with more force than politeness.
' Come now, Alick, we will go home,' said the
gentleman, touching his prisoner's arm, a sense of
pity having sprung up in his heart for the mis-
guided sufferer. Alick obediently staggered to his
feet and stepped forward, leaning on Vincent and
still holding Nannie's hand. ' Oh, he is ill ! '
murmured the girl.
But the whole congregation was waiting patiently
outside. Vincent felt annoyed ; especially when
Alick, perceiving the crowd, hesitated, then raised
his head and looked round with a scared and
bewildered air, as if he were trying to recollect what
was going on.
' Nannie,' whispered Vincent, ' go to your father
126 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
there, and bid him from me to disperse these people.
But the prophet had checked his feet ; vigour
was returning to his frame and fire to his eye.
Before Nannie could move he had surveyed the
throng, and had raised his hand commandingly. A
thrill of expectation ran through the spectators.
Mr. Bryant appeared now from the vestry, with
his benignity and superficial remedies. ' You have
something to say, my good Alick ? Allow him to
speak, Sir Vincent, if he wishes it. We are out of
' Alick,' said Vincent, ' take my advice and come
away.' Alick looked at him for a moment with a
pitiful hesitation, and Vincent felt somehow increas-
ingly sorry for him. But then the prophet dropped
the friendly arm, drew himself up, and with a calm
and an assurance doubly impressive after his previous
agitated weakness, he remounted the church steps,
and standing there above the audience he spoke quite
fluently and with resistless command in his tones —
' I CHAEGE YOU ALL, IN THE NAME OF THE LORD,
THAT YE LISTEN UNTO THE WORD WHICH HE HAS SENT
YOU BY ME. It is a bidding from the Lord that we
put away an evil thing and an evil man from among
us, lest He bring judgment upon us in anger and
in fury and in furious rebukes. The Lord has
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 127
Mr. Bryant stood in an easy attitude with a
snule on his pleasant face ; but as a matter of fact
he was sick with a horrible dread. There were only
about forty persons present, and these for the most
part friendly to himself, and the speaker was a mere
ignorant and presumptuous fanatic. That was one
aspect of the situation, and the smile was assumed
in conformity to it. But still the fanatic had that
thrilling voice, and had he been as truly inspired as
he believed himself to be, he could not have looked
his part better. Mr. Bryant, having an uneasy con-
science, could no more resist the impression of the
speaker's authority than could little Miss Yerrill,
who was sobbing like a child, or stout Farmer
Eandle, who had not heard his nephew preach be-
fore, and was now watching him so attentively that
he never saw Nannie convulsively clutch at Sir
Vincent Leicester's hand, — surely an unseemly action
on the part of a modest country maiden.
' For many days,' said the prophet, ' the hand of
the Lord has been heavy upon me. He has given
me neither sleep, nor rest, nor meat. At His com-
mand I have left my bed nightly, and have watched
the rising and the setting of the stars, signs to us
of the power and the bidding of God. And I have
seen a star leave his place in the heavens and fall
into destruction in the sea ; even as Lucifer, son of
the morning, was cast from his place ; as we shall
128 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
all be cast forth who resist the authority and the
might of our Maker. And I have heard the voice
of the Lord upon many waters, and have seen the
waves arise and roar and bend and break under His
wrath ; when the foam is caught up against the
blackness of the night clouds, and the deeps are
stirred by evil angels doing the will of the God they
hate. And I saw then the great power of the
Lord, and knew that if He willed it so, His storm
could crumble this cliff upon which we stand and
sweep the church which yon wicked man has pro-
faned into His destroying waves, until the day
when there shall be no more sea. And this the
Lord will do, even here in Everwell, unless ye
REPENT.' And so on, followed by biblical thunders
against the lying and the foolish prophet, who
said ' the Lord saith ' when the Lord had not
Vincent turned to Mr. Bryant. 'Hadn't you
better make some sort of reply ? ' he said ; ' these
stupid folk don't understand that the man is simply
But Mr. Bryant also was cowering and speech-
less. Vincent shrugged his shoulders ; then tapped
the now kneeling Alick on the shoulder.
' My dear fellow,' he said, ' you are very eloquent,
but eloquence is confusing to plain people. Will
you state in simple words what has offended you ? '
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 129
' It's the altar-cloth/ interposed the clergyman,
hastily ; ' our poor friend thinks it popish.'
' Is that so, Alick ? ' But the prophet's frenzy
had passed ; he looked up with an expression so
far from formidable that again pity for him com-
plicated Vincent's action.
'We will take it away for the present,' con-
tinued the clergyman, ' and next Sunday I will
preach on the subject and explain.'
' Let us have the sermon by all means/ said
Vincent, ' but I think, sir, you will be mistaken if
you make any change in your arrangements under
pressure of this kind/ Then raising his voice and
addressing the agitated throng, he continued : ' The
time has come, my friends, when I must give you
my opinion of this movement there has been among
you. While Alick Eandle's object was to promote
order and decency among us, and his denunciations
were against crime and vice, nobody wished to
hinder him, and it seemed ungracious to expose his
fallacies. But now that he is making war upon
mere church furniture, it is evident that he has
wandered away from essential religion and spiritual
importance. A\Tien he delivers a " message " about
such trifles I am altogether a disbeliever in its
divine authority. As to the imagined supernatural
evidences of Ahck's commission, Mr. Bryant, Dr.
Verrill, I myself, any one who has studied such
VOL. II 28
I30 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
manifestations by the light of reason and experience,
knows that they are to be accounted for by natural
laws, which have no more special meaning nor moral
reference than has the falling of a meteor which
may be seen any autumn evening, or the rising of a
storm at sea. Alick Eandle is a friend of mine,
for whom I entertain a great respect ; I should be
sorry to call him an impostor, but I do say, most
distinctly, that he is deluded. I do not believe him
an extraordinary messenger from heaven ; and when
he proposes what I consider folly, I shall oppose
him ; when he transgresses against our ordinary
rules for the wellbeing of society, I shall treat him
with no more leniency than is the right of any other
These utterances had some effect in restoring
composure to the audience, chiefly perhaps through
Alick himself, who had risen and was apparently
restored to the demeanour of an ordinary mortal.
The throng soon dispersed, Alick walking away
alone with a firm step. At a little distance he was
joined by Xannie.
' Deae me, Mrs. Bryant ! ' exclaimed Georgina, ' have
you seen a ghost, or what is the matter with you V
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 131
Neither of the ladies had been that evening at
church. The vicar's wife, too restless and troubled
to take pleasure at present in her husband's preach-
ing, had been out for a short stroll by herself.
But no sooner had she crossed the threshold on her
return than she sank fainting on her stepdaughter's
arm. Georgina rang for the under-housemaid, who
was the only servant at home. Susan was one who
dearly loved a tragedy.
' Miss,' she said, clasping her hands as she had
seen Alick, the preacher, do, ' the missus is going to
die of the typhus. My grandmother's illness begun
' Then don't touch her,' said Georgina, ' and don't
scream in that senseless way. Go and fetch the doctor.'
' Alick Eandle, the holy man, is passing, miss.
I will call him in. His prayers made my grand-
mother go off easy.' Georgina was not listening ;
she was hoping Emma might die, and trying to
recall all her knowledge about infection. So Susan
acted on her own responsibility, and ushered in
Alick and Nannie without a moment's hesitation.
Naturally Georgina was displeased.
' How dare you intrude like this ? ' she said
angrily to Alick, who retired with his usual proud
humility. Georgina, however, detained Nannie ;
' You can stay,' she said, condescendingly ; ' you may
be of assistance to me.'
132 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
'Nannie, Nannie, my darling/ murmured Mrs.
Bryant, stretching out her arm to the girl, who
knelt and received her affectionate kiss.
' How silly you are ! ' said Georgina ; ' you'll get
it yourself.' Nannie had not come to close quarters
with Miss Bryant before. The imposing young
lady failed to awe the country maid so much as
might have been expected.
'I never heard faintnesswas catching, miss,' she said
with a little smile ; ' I think my aunt seems tired
and weak. I will mind her if you will make a cup of
tea. That will cheer her up as well as anything.'
' I make tea ! ' repeated Georgina, in great
dudgeon. ' Susan can do it when she comes in
from fetching the doctor.'
' Oh, but there is no need for that!' cried Nannie ;
' Dr. Verrill will bid you get mushrooms or some-
thing much more difficult than a cup of tea ! '
' Don't leave me, Mary ! ' murmured Emma ;
and Georgina said she was wandering, then threw
herself upon a chair, opening a novel.
Mr. Bryant came in, and with him Sir Vincent.
They were discussing Alick, and the clergyman was
trying to remove the young man's evident impres-
sion that the fanatic had frightened him.
' What on earth is going on ? ' faltered Mr.
Bryant, with another attack of complete terror, as
he saw the dreaded girl at his wifes side, looking
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 133
her prettiest too, as she knelt iu the dying light,
one arm under Mrs. Bryant's head. To the clergyman
the likeness between the mother and daughter was
alarmingly evident at that moment. Nannie raised
her eyes to her lover's and a smile involuntarily
dimpled her lips. There was archness in her
glance, reaction after the agitation Alick had
caused her ; and somehow she felt queen of the
present situation. Georgina explained matters
' I believe Miss Eandle fancied herself useful,
papa, but I have no idea how she got in. I fancy
she was visiting her friend Susan in the scullery.'
' We are much obliged to Miss Eandle,' said the
clergyman, ' but we need not detain her.' Nannie
rose most demurely, but for the life of her could
not restrain another peep at Vincent, and then a
flush at finding his eyes absently fixed upon herself.
' Impudence ! ' murmured Georgina, and moved
her skirts away from the touch of Nannie's Sunday
frock. Vincent was indignant, and as Nannie went
out, he took his leave also. And Mr. Bryant and
Georgina glared at him througli the window so
intently, that it was not until Emma uttered a
piercing yell that any one knew Dr. Verrill had
surreptitiously ghded in and had poured the biting
shock mixture down the neck of the patient.
* Nannie, you little minx,' said Vincent, catching
134 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
her up when they were out of the range of eyes,
' you have done for us now. I shall have to explain
to Mr. Bryant.'
' It was you I ' cried Nannie ; ' why did you stare
so, and come out after me ? I am very sorry,' she
went on, half laughing, half apologetic, ' but Miss
Bryant had made me so cross, I just had to do
something to her. She was too grand to make a
cup of tea ! and I saw her ladyship boil a kettle
in that very house the day my aunt came first ! I
did ! ' Vincent laughed. ' Do you know she told
stories ! ' cried ISTannie. ' She liad sent for me,
and she made me stay, and she didn't help Mrs.
Bryant one bit. She only stood there crying out
that aunt had the fever and she wouldn't touch her.'
' Nannie,' said Vincent, ' it is not pretty of you
to abuse Miss Bryant to me.'
' Why not ? You don't care about her, do you ? '
'Not a rap now,' said Vincent, impelled to con-
fession. The girl started and looked up anxiously.
' Now ^ ' repeated Nannie.
'Not a rap. I thought I cared for her once.
It was a delusion. You have a right to know it,
though, my sweet.' Nannie's merriment seemed
exhausted, and she stepped on with her eyes on the
'I did not know you had ever loved any one but
me,' she whispered, after a while, not looking up.
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 135
' I love you best and you only, Nannie. But I
wish I had known you long ago ; then I should
have been saved many mistakes as to what love
Vincent's hand was on her shoulder as usual,
and Nannie turned her head and kissed it gravely,
her cheeks flushing. 'Nannie, you are a darling to
understand me ! ' murmured Vincent. But even
lovers are not always perfectly comprehensible to
each other. Nannie understood, as Georgina never
could have done, that her lover was remorseful for
some former and ignorant faithlessness against
herself; but her thoughts had not got beyond
Miss Bryant, and Vincent had already forgotten
that very superficial love affair. A few minutes
afterwards they had a more serious misunder-
' I was so afraid you were vexed with me this
afternoon,' said Nannie, timidly, after a while.
He thought a little.
' I was a little cross, wasn't I ? We seem to
have made it up now ! But I was vexed, Nannie,
yes. I did not know you were going about in that
conspicuous way with Alick ; and — I don't like it.'
He put his arm round her : 'Don't you see, my
treasure, it leads to misconstructions ? You are
making difficulties for yourself. And you remember
what I said '
136 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
' It is not so very easy to help it/ said Nannie ;
' he wants me so. Ah, don't be vexed with me ! '
Vincent thought he had reproved enough.
' The fact is, Nannie,' he said presently, ' I am
not comfortable about Alick. I hope all this preach-
ing is not turning his brain.' Nannie sighed.
' He is queer. I never know how much he
means when he talks of things he has seen and all
that. He frightens me when he tells of voices and
visions. But then I remember it is only a way of
talking, like the Bible and the Pilgrims Progress.
Bunyan didn't really dream all that, did he ? '
' I suppose not. It isn't Alick's visions which
alarm me, but his boundless conceit.'
' Ah no ! That is where you do not understand
him ! ' cried Nannie, warmly ; ' don't you see, sir,
Alick thinks he has to believe and to obey every
single word in the Bible, because it is all spoken by
God ! Mr. Bryant and other people say that too,
but they don't do it. I never saw any one else who
obeyed the Bible like that ! Would you cut your
hand off if it made you do wrong ? Alick would !
I know he would.' Vincent did not like this praise
of his rival.
' If I cut my hand off, Nannie, it would not be
a proof of my sanity.'
' Would you burn it off to pull some one out of
the fire ? '
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 137
' To pull you out/ said Vincent.
' It is the same. Only Alick thinks there are
other things as important as pulling people out of
'Nevertheless, Nannie, I am going to get an
opinion as to how far Alick's reason and self-command
may be trusted. He nearly poisoned himself once ; I
won't have him cutting his hands off, as you suggest;
or perhaps some one else's.' The girl was startled.
' Wliose opinion ? ' she asked.
'A doctor's. The opinion of a better doctor
' What would he do to Alick ? '
' Probably advise that he should give up preach-
ing ; perhaps leave EverwelL'
'Alick would be very angry,' exclaimed Nannie.
'Very likely. You must not tell him at
' Please, I hope very much — please, sir, for my
sake,' protested Nannie, ' don't do it.'
' I am sorry to demur to any request of yours,
Nannie,' said Vincent, eyeing her suspiciously.
' You do not know what Alick would think. If
you wanted to make him really crazy, it would be
the way ! '
' Which shows we must be on our guard.'
' You think Alick is crazy just because you don't
understand him ! '
138 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
' I have not said that Alick is crazy. But twice
to-day, and on former occasions, he has looked so to
me,' said Vincent, bluntly. Nannie was angry.
'If you send Alick away from Everwell,' she
cried, ' I will just go with him ! '
Vincent stopped short. ' What do you mean by
that, Nannie ? ' he asked, slowly. They stood facing
each other, Nannie's blue eyes flashing, and Vincent
very quiet and cold, but devoured by sudden
jealousy. Her excitement had disagreeably aston-
' Do you think,' cried the girl, passionately, ' that
any woman would turn from a person at the moment
he was sick and lonely and perhaps despised, and
needing her most ? Are you going against Alick
and trying to make me afraid of him with such a
notion as that ? I will not desert him ! '
'Take care what you are saying, Nannie,' said
Nannie, frightened by his tone, was half-crying.
She laid her hand on his, but for the first time it
met with no answering gesture.
' I didn't mean I'd go with Alick as anything
but his sister,' she pleaded.
' That is the height of folly, Nannie. You are
not Alick's sister, and you know he does not regard
you as such, nor does any one else.'
' But I can't give him up altogether ! ' exclaimed
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 139
Nannie. ' I am very fond of him ! ' There was a
' How much do you mean of what you have been
saying, Xannie ? ' said Vincent at last. ' Because/
he continued, as she made no reply, ' I must speak
plainly in my turn. In a sense you are free ; you
have never promised to be certainly mine, and I
have no claim to assert, if even now you dismiss me.
But that does not justify any trifling between us.
Do you not understand that love is exclusive ? So
long as you belong to me, even vaguely, I do not
choose you to have intimate relation with any one
else ; particularly with such a wild, headstrong mad-
man as Alick.'
Vincent in love with a princess would have
spoken in precisely the same way, but from strong
emotion his tone was imperious and the farmer's
daughter was offended.
' I have no intimate relation with Alick, sir,' she
said, proudly, ' but I will not listen to you calling
She moved on towards her home, and when he
made a step to accompany her, shook her head.
Vincent dropped back and watched her retreating
figure with disappointed gaze. A little farther on
the path made an abrupt turn, and once out of his
sight Nannie sat down and burst into tears. She
did not cry long, however. She sat up straight,
140 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
her eyes raised to the soft evening clouds, and
her fingers on the concealed ring he had given
After a while her lover rejoined her. 'Have
we quarrelled, Nannie ? ' he asked, sorrowfully.
' If we have, sir,' said Nannie, with trembling
lips, 'I do not think it is my doing.' Vincent
took her hand in his.
' Nannie,' he said, ' I cannot take back what
I have said ; but believe me, my darling, it is not
that I do not love you with all my heart ; nor that
I am not feeling most keenly that I have, perhaps
selfishly, led you into an ambiguous position, which
will require the greatest care from us both, if it is
not to end in difficulty.' Nannie was touched, for
his voice shook.
' You have not done me any harm,' she said,
gently. ' Please don't be regretting anything for
me. But I want to think it all over by my-
self I don't think I understood before that you
' Nannie ! ' exclaimed Vincent, with a terrible
pang, for her tone seemed to imply that his con-
ditions were too hard for her, ' you are not going
to give me up after all our love ? '
' I must think it all over by myself,' she re-
peated, quietly. Then she rose and clasped her
hands on his arm. ' You must never believe for a
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 141
moment/ she said, 'that I intended to trifle with
anybody about such a sacred thing as love ! '
' Nannie, Nannie, my own darling ! forgive
She raised her face gravely to his, and he kissed
her lips again and again. Then they parted with-
out further speech.
Meanwhile the vicarage had subsided into its
customary calm. Dr. Verrill, after offending every-
body, had gone away ; Georgina had retired, and
Mr. Bryant and his wife were alone. Emma still
looked pale, and was conscious that Edward was
less kind than usual. It was not a propitious
moment for the news the poor wife had to give.
' I wish to goodness you'd go on, my dear,' said
the irritated man, impatient of her stammering.
' I can't, Ned, while you are so cross.'
'You are enough sometimes to try the patience
of Job, Emma ! It wouldn't be wonderful if I were
annoyed, considering the provocation I have had
to-day. There has been one eternal worry ever
since we came to this infernal place, and I declare
I believe you do all you can to make it worse.
Well, are you going on ? '
142 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
She felt herself turning faint again. Never
before had she heard her husband speak in this
manner. 'I'll let it be for to-night, Edward/ she
said, mournfully. Life was becoming too difficult for
her. And all of a sudden she remembered, poor
fool — and the thought seemed for a moment to stop
the beating of her heart — that she had dealt with a
man once who, whatever his faults, had never
spoken to her rudely ; he had never raised his voice
and he generally smiled ; and if he was sarcastic
she had never found it out. And she had learned,
this very evening, that after all he had not de-
ceived her intentionally, and that he had meant to
right her, if she had not married again so hastily !
It was an exceedingly lame story ;. but she believed
it, for a day or two at any rate.
Mr. Bryant, who was bad-tempered only under
exceptionally exasperating circumstances, was him-
self aware that nervous irritation was making him
unkind, and to the most gentle, harmless woman in
the world, as he very well knew. He had been
wiser to go out and purge away his bad humour
in private. While such disease is on one, attempts
at kindness and heaping of coals on the enemy's
head is quite beyond the strength.
' You had better tell me, Emma, my love. I
am sure I always wish to help you. Come, what
is it about ? '
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 143
' It is about — Nannie's ' she stopped, tremb-
' Oh now, I really am too much worried to-
night ' then he remembered that whatever it
was, his wife had fainted about it. It might be of
importance. ' What of the girl, Emma ? '
* Oh, Ned, have pity on me ; it is about — about
Nannie's father ! '
' Why can't you call him Ben ? You know his
name, I believe ? '
'Edward — ' the poor wife rose and staggered
to her husband's side, kneeling beside him implor-
ingly, ' I didn't mean Ben. Her own— Mary's
Mr. Bryant started to his feet, freeing himself
from her touch.
' Are you mad ? ' he said, his voice shaking with
anger. ' You have no sense of the commonest
decency, Emma, to allude to that person to me.
How dare you disobey me like this ? By heavens,
you will make me hate you.'
No answer but sobs from the terrified creature
crouching by the empty chair.
' Get up, Emma, and don't make an idiot of
yourself. Come now, I intend to be obeyed. That
scoundrel has disappeared from your history and
from the world, fortunately for you. If he were
still in existence, by Heaven, you should not be here
144 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
— in my house — associated with my daughter — a
drag upon my career. You had better take care
how you recall him to a shadow of existence by
your indelicate sentiment, and your worse than
stupid chatter. Come now, you have told the man
Alick Eandle something ? '
' Oh, Edward, no.'
' You have been gossiping with Ann Leach again,
or with that girl ? '
' No, indeed, I have not.'
' What have you done ? '
' Nothing. I won't say no more, as you take it
so. It's of no importance.'
' I am the best judge of importance. Whom did
you see when you were out ? '
' No one — at least — oh, Ned, be patient
with me ! I can't help being such a miserable
woman 1 '
' Whom did you see ? '
' I think it was the visitor at the Heights.'
' Well ? You didn't speak to him, I hope, with-
out having been introduced ? ' said Mr. Bryant,
with quick suspicion of his wife's idea of etiquette.
' No — oh — no ! Ned, I am going to faint again !
I can't see. Give me some water.'
Mr. Bryant bustled out of the room for some
brandy and refused to let his wife agitate herself
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 145
The next day a curious little note in a feigned
hand was brought by a ragged child for ' the gentle-
man at the Heights.' It fell into Vincent's posses-
' Unless you can do something to save her, do
for God's sake go away. You do not know the
mischief you will make for me. — E.'
Vincent could make nothing of it and threw it
on the table.
' Some of your lunatic friend's work I should
think,' sneered Mr. Kane, glancing at it.
The visitor stayed on a few days at the Heights,
went away and returned more than once, to his
nephew's weariness. The Bryants saw no more of
him ; but Mrs. Leach had made his acquaintance,
and once Vincent caught him watching Xannie with
great interest. He had, however, given up his
jesting admiration for the girl, which was as well,
for Vincent was less than ever in the mood to
Alice did not preach on Monday, and his disciples
stood about looking for him, and were inclined to
VOL. 11 29
146 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
grumble. In the evening he ran up to the Farm for
a visit to J^annie, returned sooner than usual, and
with a new expression on his face, — an uneasy look,
as if something had roused suspicion in his mind,
and he had caught a glimpse of a snare.
' Is thy poor head bad, Alick ? ' asked Mrs. Leach,
and he started and laughed, aimlessly it seemed to
Ann. Then he turned on her —
' You've been at the Tanswick beer - house,
mother. Are you not ashamed to pass the grave of
your husband, that God-fearing man, in such a sin-
struck condition ? Some day, mother, when you go
by, you'll see his spirit standing on the mound
where we laid his mouldering body, and he will
come to you through the darkness and strike you
with his ice-cold hand, and ask you in his deathly
voice, " What meanest thou, woman, to dishonour me
thus ? " I take it, mother, you wouldn't want to see
your husband rise from the tomb to speak to you
so.' Alick had dragged Mrs. Leach to the window
pointing with his long finger, which looked white
and horrible in the dusk, towards the distant church-
yard, while his eye stared fixedly in the same
direction, giving the impression that he saw not
merely the far-away headstones and green wind-
swept mounds, but the ghost he spoke of waiting on
Jim Leach's grave.
' I don't want Jim Leach nor Jim Eandle neither
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 147
to come from the place we put 'em/ whimpered
Mrs. Leach ; ' but, lad, I'm a sober woman now, and
have heard thee preach and obeyed the spirit and
signed the pledge.'
' Mother,' said Alick, ' thou art not rightly sober
And though Mrs. Leach had not broken her
pledge, he confused her ; for she was the firmest of
all the believers in his sanctity, and could not
believe he was falling into her own trick of mis-
statement. So at his bidding she fell a -pray-
ing and confessing, joining to her supplication a
fervent petition that if Heaven sent her messages
about drink or anything else, it should not be
by one of her husbands. ' Gin they came to-
gether it would be worst of all,' she said to her-
self. ' Gin I saw 'em coming in, in their grave-
clothes, arm-in-arm, and both named Jim, and
both so fond of me, and Jim Eandle the youngest,
and touching me with their nasty clammy hands,
one on each side — it's spirits itself I'd be obliged to
have, and to send Alick himself to fetch it, gin I
wasn't to die of a heap before those ghosts had done
speaking to me and had got back into their coffins
The next day Alick was eating his dinner and
preparing a sermon at the same time ; the dinner
consisted of about two mouthfuls of mashed carrots.
148 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
washed down by a tumbler of raspberry-leaf tea ;
and his thoughts were wandering from the sermon,
for he never turned over a page of his Bible. But
he was not among observers ; the working of Alick's
mind, as well as of his curiously unhungry stomach,
had long been abandoned as a hopeless mystery by
Jim Leach's commonplace offspring.
'Sally!' cried Alick, suddenly, his face pale and
drops starting on his brow, ' who is yon strange
man walking there in the street with Nannie and
' I never sey him afore,' said Sally ; ' bey yo
afeard of him, Alick V For her brother had left
the window and retreated into the shadow of a
corner as if fearful of being seen. Presently Alick
slunk out, hatless and without a word. He pursued
the trio at a distance, creeping along furtively as if
hiding. If it were the fire of jealousy which had
driven him forth, it gained little additional fuel, for
Sir Vincent was not talking to Nannie. It was
the white-haired stranger who was catechising her,
about farm produce perhaps, for she carried a basket
on her arm with a pair of ducks which she had
been taking as a present to her aunt. Had any
one passed Alick he might have wondered at the
prophet's shuddering mien and the look of cunning
in his eye; but the road was deserted, and his
pursuit was accomplished unobserved.
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 149
' It's him/ muttered Alick to himself, and biting
liis fingers ; ' it's the mad doctor.'
In the afternoon the tide had rolled far out in
long lines of low breakers, leaving the flat rocks of
the scar uncovered, with here and there between
them level stretches of sand. Upon one of these
the congregation assembled ; and Sir Vincent and
the stranger were there too, lounging apart ; the
stranger was interested by the hymn-singing, and
by the lay preacher, into the state of whose mind he
had come to inquire ; for the doctor was a Plymouth
Brother and had a turn for lay preaching himself.
When he first heard Alick's rich voice, he smiled a
little and was inclined to think he had lighted upon
a village Whitfield, in whom the shallow worldling
had discovered a case for his private madhouse.
' I have been thought mad myself by my worldly
relations,' he reflected ; ' however, the man has cer-
tainly a wild eye.'
Alick's sermon was thoroughly sensible that day,
for he did not himself preach at all, but read from
his favourite Isaiah. He had been unable to think
of anything but the white-haired stranger who was
present ; and when he opened his lips to speak could
not remember one syllable he had prepared, nor so
much as the text of his discourse. His inspiration
liad failed ; he was dumb. Alick cast about for a
device, and then, as I say, read random passages from
ISO MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
Isaiah, that mighty Hebrew poet ; piecing them
together with impromptu skill, and delivering them
with all the charm of his keen appreciation and
familiarity, in his exquisite tones, like those of some
rare musical instrument, which, under the touch of a
master hand, wakes instant vibrations in the hearts
of the hearers. There was a lump in Nannie's throat
before he had finished ; even Vincent was moved,
and the stranger was struck dumb with admiration.
However, the tide had turned, and there was no
use in the congregation's half-discontented requests
for a sermon. Alick had none to preach, and there
was no longer dry standing on the stretch of sand.
The people dispersed, and the two gentlemen, Alick
and Nannie, moved shorewards together. Alick
(sick at heart) was calm and even smiling; more
sensible and alert about worldly matters than he
had seemed for days. He told of even Mr. Bryant's
altar-cloth without a trace of absurdity, and it was
impossible for Vincent not to feel provoked by his
man's mal-a-propos exhibition of his best side. For
Nannie, not having the least thought of betraying
her lover's confidence, had yet given Alick a hint,
unintentional, — not much of a hint at all, but
enough for one in the prophet's morbid condition
of intellect, — which, blinding him to some things
obvious enough, gave him unnatural quickness of
apprehension for others. He guessed all about the
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 151
doctor, was forearmed for the encounter, and knew
that Sir Vincent wished to make out he was mad.
' Ay, I see what you are at !' he cried that
evening, forgetting all the restraints of forbearance
and mildness which a month ago he had recognised
as duty ; ' you haven't found it so easy to steal my
Xannie as you supposed. You've found out as she's
going to be true to me, have you ? And you think
you have a trump in your hand, and have told her I'm
crazed and shall be put away. You sha'n't tell her
so no more. I ain't so easy got rid of.' And then
a fit of trembling seized him, and he looked round
furtively at himself in the mirror, to see if the
de\Tl possessing him had perchance grown visible ;
to see if he looked ill ; if it could be possible that
his enemy's suspicion was suspicion of a truth.
' He's a mad doctor, I suppose,' muttered Alick,
dri\ing his nails into the flesh of liis arm and
setting his teeth. And he walked over to Vincent
and shook his arm, his eyes glaring, and a wild
laugh wrinkling his haggard lips. *I suppose he's
a mad doctor !' repeated Alick.
Dr. Simpson saw thi'ough Alick of course ; not
entirely, for the man had been all day upon his guard,
but a great deal more than he thought it wise to admit,
except in confidence to Dr. Verrill, who did not listen.
The great man did not understand Dr. VerrUl, but
he made a very good shot at every one else con-
152 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
nected with the case ; at the patient himself, who
was likely enough to give trouble some day but
was not unhinged yet, and whose pious work was
delightful ; at the impetuous Sir Vincent, who had
exaggerated ; at Alick's relations, ignorant, emotional,
and likely, if alarmed, to irritate the patient ; at the
fair young girl, half afraid of her saintly cousin, half
enamoured of him, whose love would be his salva-
tion. ' There is no occasion for alarm,' he said,
cheerfully, ' and Dr. Verrill will keep an eye upon
him. Medical men have to be most cautious in
these matters,' he observed, as he pocketed his fee;
' we must have much stronger evidence before we
interfere with a man's vocation or pronounce him a
dangerous member of society. I prescribe a generous
diet. Suspicion from others, apprehension about
himself, thwarting in his work, disappointment, are
the fatal things for a man in his condition. I
gather he has been crossed in love ; there you have
reasonable cause for excitement in an ill-balanced
nature. Give him the woman he wants, and a hundred
to one he gives no further trouble. For the present,
Dr. Verrill will keep an eye upon him.' And he re-
peated with a smile, ' I prescribe a generous diet, matri-
mony, and a general indulgence of his inclinations.
Medical men must be cautious in these matters.'
'It is a great relief, dear, is it not V said the
compassionate Lady Katharine to her son.
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 153
' Mother,' answered Vincent, gloomily, ' let us
never be religious over -much, for I do honestly
beheve it distorts the judgment.'
' You will learn, my young friend,' observed Mr.
Kane, 'not to judge of people exclusively profes-
sionally. You omitted to study your parson's social
position and your doctor's religious one. Shall we
suggest that you have made two blunders ?'
Xo one could imagine why Lady Katharine, for-
getting all about Alick and Dr. Simpson, the topic
in hand, answered this speech by the warmest
defence of Mr. Bryant conceivable, declaring that he
was the very man, in all respects, whom her deceased
husband would have selected for the position he
occupied ; and that she had a sincere attachment for
him and for all his family ; more especially for his
most beautiful and delightful daughter, whom she
positively loved. The fact was she had received a
hint from Georgina herself about a very terrible
danger to her dear boy ; and Vincent's marriage to
Miss Bryant (always desirable) had assumed for her
now an aspect of absolute necessity, to be urged at
' That vulgar young woman !' Lady Katharine
had exclaimed, thinkincf of Caroline Eandle and un-
speakably shocked ; ' impossible ! '
' Oh, dearest Lady Katharine,' cried the weeping
Georgina, ' do not believe it of him. It was a mere
154 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
passing delusion. I know it. He loves me with
his true, his real self. He has told me so : often.
/ will save him !'
Suspicion from others, apprehension about himself,
thwarting, disappointment — the worst things for a
man in his condition — became Alick's portion in the
days that followed ; and Nannie was his only con-
Alick had forgotten how to sleep ; but the in-
firmity had been undiscovered and unconfessed, and
at night he lay motionless on his pallet, staring at
the dim starlit ceiling and afraid almost to draw his
breath, lest he should wake the two boys who shared
his room and so be detected a watcher. How
despondent were Alick's thoughts during those long
night hours ! He lost control of the thickly crowding
fancies and fears, memories and resolves, till the
last seemed first and the first last ; the most
horrible, the most natural, and the least noticed of
That failure to produce his sermon, for instance.
Like a skilful actor he had woven his forgetfulness
so cunningly into the play that every one had believed
it set down in his part. He had told the people
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 155
that his divine prompter had bidden liim this day
only to read from the Holy Book. It was not till
night during those long sleepless hours that he
recognised in the statement a lie, worthy of Mr.
Bryant. He had not heard the guiding voice at all :
he had cast about for a device of his own. Alick
discerned the difference, for he had been inspired so
often, so long ! Inspiration knew no toil, no un-
certainty. He had not been inspired to-day. And
oh what a moment for his inspiration to fail, when
men were beginning to think him mad !
' My God, my God ! ' murmured Alick, with a
groan, ' why hast Thou forsaken me ? '
In the morning he went to Nannie, told her of
his trouble and craved her help. Nannie was not
glad to see him, for she knew he was coming between
her and her lover ; but it was not in her power to
be cross to any one, least of all to one wounded and
sorry like Alick.
' What's the matter, dear lad ? ' she asked, quite
kindly, taking his hand and leading him to the
pleasant bench under the walnut-tree where they
could be quiet together.
' Did he tell thee I was mad, Nannie ? ' asked
' I will not tell you what he said,' answered
Nannie, distressed, ' but it was no such ugly words,
156 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
' Nannie/ said Alick, ' yon man who was friends
with me when he came to Everwell first, is my enemy
now. It's a bitter thing to look back on one's life
and see the hopes that have been crushed and the
pains that have grown out of pleasure, and how
those one trusted most have betrayed one — some of
'em with a kiss, lassie.'
' No, Alick,' said Nannie, ' I never kissed thee a
lover's kiss. Why are you so sad, Alick ? '
He told her — the only confidant he cared for —
of his soul conflict and the trap into which Satan
had led him yesterday in that matter of the sermon.
Nannie listened, only half-understanding.
'I have sinned, Nannie. Worse than the
minister himself I wish I had not spoken against
him now,' said the prophet.
' I am sure so do I, Alick ! ' replied Nannie.
' But there ! you are sorry. Your next preaching
will be best of all.'
'Maybe the Lord is tired of my preaching,'
said Alick, ' and is going to lay me low. And yon
man — thy lover, Nannie — does not believe the
Lord was with me ! nor no one won't believe it
when they see the Lord is with me no more. I
want Him with me at this time more than ever
' Alick,' said Nannie, puzzled but compassionate,
' I cannot think God is more needful to us one time
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 157
than another, and it is not like you, and not like
what you used to say, to want God with you for
your own sake's sake. Instead of talking to me
here and crying out against God, because you are
sad and a bit sick maybe, it would be better to be
working for Him in the village among the poor and
the sinful, and showing them His ways.'
' Thou wilt come with me, Nannie ? ' said Alick,
She hesitated. Sir Vincent did not like her to
go about with Alick. Yet as she looked at her
cousin's worn and anxious face his need seemed
great ; it was not the moment in which she could
withdraw her comfort and her help. Sir Vincent's
generous soul would be the first to acknowledge
that, once she explained. Oh if she could only get
hold of her dear lover for one five minutes' UU-d-
Utel But she went with Alick.
' I SUPPOSE he doesn't know I correspond with the
Medical Journal ! ' said Dr. Verrill one day later,
talking explosively to his sister, while Alick was
arranging the next room for the weekly club
158 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
' Perhaps not, brother. I wish you had had
your coat on when Sir Vincent brought him in.'
' I have no patience with those men who live in
grooves and make no experiments. The bare idea
of the Executive holding its head above the Legis-
lature ! Just the same with your religious folk.
That man Bryant to give himself airs ! Give me
the innovating genius like our poor friend Alick,
if you want to set me psalm-singing.' Alick, hearing
his own name, began to listen ; he wondered why
even Dr. Verrill called him ' poor.'
' I tell you what it is ! ' roared the doctor, ' if
that man of traditions had been physician here in
Everwell in these fever times, he'd never have
discovered anything. The whole opportunity would
have been wasted. He'd have cured a few weaklings
by making them weaker and even more prolific than
they are already, the fools ; but he'd have left the
diet and the population and the bathing of the place
just where they were. The world would never have
heard of my new drug E . He actually men-
tioned E ' (another drug well known to the
reader) ' as of value. I'd like to dose him with
R , the antedeluvian ! '
Alick's eye at this moment lighted on a dark
little bottle labelled R on the shelf he was
arranging. It had no business there at any rate.
He put it in his pocket for the moment and acci-
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 159
dentally carried it away ^Yhen his preparations for
the club meeting were complete.
' Brother, you exaggerate. The man spoke of
E only in connection with Barnabas Sawyer ;
to whom I alluded in the presence of the strange
medical man, merely from my customary deficiency
of subject matter for conversation.'
' Barnabas Sawyer is dying, I am happy to say.
He has undermined his constitution with putrid fish
and the insides of sheep. I wouldn't cure him if I
could. A patient of that depraved nature is to a
doctor what a scandalous w^ife is to a husband.
There is only one way for the reputation of either :
' The medical man asserted by way of conversa-
tion — he experienced my difficulty in finding a topic
— that he would try Barnabas Sawyer with R '
'I would as soon give R to Barnabas
Sawyer,' shouted the doctor, jumping up and down,
chair and all, in a wild excitement, ' as I would
feed on it myself for a dinner dish. Have you,
or have you not, read my last contribution to the
Medical Journal .? If you have, tease me no more
with such silly repetitions of abolished formulas.'
Alick had presently finished his business and went
That day a message was brought to the prophet
in the cool of the evening. ' Barnabas Sawyer has
i6o MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
seen an angel in a vision bidding him send, Alick,
for thee, to lay thy hands on him and cure him.
Thy prayers have never failed him on whom thou
didst lay thy hand, man ; for pity's sake come to
The people were catching up Alick's semi-
Scriptural jargon ; and when he, discerning some-
thing heathenish, but too ignorant to know what it
was, had replied unwillingly, ' I went but to those
unto whom it was the Lord's will to send me,'
the messenger said again —
' The plague stayed at thy prayer, Alick. There
has been smitten but a man here and a man there
since. Thou hast been given power over devils and
diseases ; and thou wilt not disobey the heavenly
vision ? '
It was beyond Alick to detect the fallacy ; he
thought himself bound to believe and to obey. The
messenger departed, telling all the people he met
that the holy man was coming forth to work a
' Time for one,' said a surly voice ; ' the prophet
has took it easy this last fourteen days. He's too
much took up with that lass of his. Propheting
and sweethearting never was connected in Bible
Meantime Alick stood long thoughtful, and
troubled by the message. ' You must come with
THE TURN OF THE TIDE i6i
me, Nan,' he said, and would listen to no de-
' Don't you like going, lad ? ' returned the girl,
impatiently ; for why should he look discontented
about work he had selected himself? Alick's
trouble lay deeper.
' Am I God,' said the man, bitterly, ' to kill and
to make alive, that they send to me, to recover a
man of his sickness ? ' Nannie was speechless with
surprise. Presently Alick cried, * Lass, tliou wilt
have to pray. Thou must not let Him go till
He has heard. We must recover the man, or 1
shall go mad because the Lord's favour is with-
drawn ! ' Nannie put her hand through his arm.
' Dear Alick, I never felt sure about it. I
wish we had a plaster of figs like what Isaiah put
upon the king ! Oh, I wish there was some good
doctor here, like Sir Vincent's friend, to give us a
medicine for the poor sick man. He has a wife
and such dear, pretty, little children ! What will
they do without him ? And he was kind to them,
if he wasn't a good man all round.' Alick was not
listening ; his brain had stopped at Nannie's
innocent wish for a clever doctor to give a
medicine. And his hand went up to the little
bottle he had carried away accidentally from Dr.
Verrill's book -shelf that morning, after chancing
to learn it was the very drug which the strange
VOL. II 30
1 62 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
physician had suggested for Barnabas Sawyer. Was
it a leading of Providence ?
Alas for Alick I He did not knoio. He was no
longer sure of his inspirations. He had lost his way,
and was now only feeling after God if haply he
might find Him.
He remembered the failure of his sermon, and
how he had yielded to an earthly device and had
sorrowed and repented. Not thus would he sin
again I He would put his faith in God alone.
' Nannie, lass, take care you do not tempt me,' said
There was a crowd round Barnabas Sawyer's
cottage, for a storm was coming on, and the boats
had not put out to sea. The village was needing
excitement, and hailed Alick's approach with a low-
breathed plaudit as at the appearance upon the
stage of a favourite actor. Within was heard the
hard breathing of the sick man and the loud crying
of women and children. The crowd opened to
admit the pale-eyed prophet and the beautiful girl
who was with him. Nannie at a moment like this,
when her soul was rapt in keen sympathy with the
suffering, had the radiant expression of an angel.
The pair passed in to the dark cottage, and the
crowd streamed after them, awestruck ; for the
presence of the dying is solemn, and solemn too was
the mien of the heaven-sent messenger of healing.
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 163
The eyes of the sick man brightened when they fell
upon Alick, and when the prophet, firm enough to
appearance, though sick at heart, laid his hand on
the cold brow, and spoke in his clear, quiet voice of
repentance and faith, and the life to come in the
New Jerusalem. The people gathered round the
bed, all hushed and silent ; and Nannie stood
opposite to Alick where he could see her, the
youngest child in her arms playing with her little
escaping locks, and the sick man's woman — she
was not his wife by any ties, legal or religious —
leaning on the girl's slender figure, and resting her
head with checked sobbings on Nannie's shoulder.
' Let us pray,' said Alick ; and they all sank on
their knees, while he lifted his voice, as so often
before, in strong supplication for the forgiveness of
sin and the restoration of life. And the people
said Amen, and the little children lisped it, and
Amen came with a groan from the sufferer himself.
And then Alick rose ; and for a moment there was
a breathless silence, while his pale face paled
perceptibly and his eyes burned through the
gathering gloom. ' In the name of God and of the
Lord Jesus Christ,' said Alick — and if his voice
faltered no one in the excited company noticed it
— ' I bid thee to arise and be healed.'
Alick closed his eyes and turned away. He had
spoken the words ; he had done his part, as he had
1 64 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
often done before with strong faith and confidence
and joy. He was not aware that he had in any
wise failed to act as the chosen of the Lord, the
mouthpiece of His will, the visible sign of His
presence. But to-day it all felt like play-acting to
Alick ; and when he had spoken he turned away
with a roaring of many waters in his ears, and a
darkness other than the darkness of night falling
Barnabas Sawyer, who had lain for hours gasp-
ing and scarcely conscious, heard the words of the
prophet and received them with joy, and felt an
influx of divine strength poured into him. He sat
up and stretched his hand to the weeping woman,
while the crowd cried aloud, ' Hallelujah ! '
' Bar — Bar ! ' shrieked the woman, ' praise the
Lord ! He has healed thee ! I am a miserable
sinner, but He has healed and pardoned thee ! '
There was a hush, and Nannie's heart swelled
with a strange emotion. But the fictitious strength
failed. A cry of horrible pain- and terror broke
from the dying man's distorted lips. A sudden
sharp convulsion followed, terrible to see. And he
fell back with a choking sob and a wild roll of his
glazing eyes — dead.
THE TURN OF THE TIDE i6:
What followed none exactly knew. The event had
been so sudden, so unexpected, that it was be-
wildering and horrifying. The bystanders started
back in a movement of panic, and the bereaved
woman flung herself shrieking upon the corpse.
Then some one muttered the word judgment, and
the panic spread. Samuel Dykes, the lean ascetic,
who w^as Alick's most devoted follow^er, and who
was as mischievous to him as exaggeration ever is
to truth, caught up the word, and began to declaim
in what he believed to be his master's manner.
' The great God has withdrawn His face because
of sin. For your sins, oh ye backsliding people of
Everwell, He hears not your prayer. He has spared
you for the sake of His servant the prophet, but
now He will spare you no more. He has carried
His servant the prophet away in a whirlwind, and
He has handed all of ye over to destruction ; be-
ginning with the sinner Barnabas, who is at this
moment in the flames.'
The people fell on their knees, shouting forth
ejaculatory prayers and groans, to the wild accom-
paniment of the howling wind, which shook the frail
cottage and shrieked and rattled at the casement.
1 66 MR, Bryant's mistake
A sudden gust flung the door open, and the bravest
looked round with dread to see what spirit visitant
was entering ; the women screamed and cowered,
hiding their faces ; that sudden rush of angry air,
which struck like a knife and made all teeth to
chatter, blew out the flickering candle ; and in the
uncertain light it seemed to many that the corpse
moved its hand threateningly, and opened its eyes
to roll them horribly from one to the other of the
terrified crowd. ' God have mercy on us ! ' groaned
the people, striking themselves and one another in
' He lived in sin ! ' shouted the fanatic, * and
now he has been given to the devil. Cast forth the
graceless corpse, and the partner of his wickedness,
and the brood of infant devilry which they have
A yell came from a girl near the door. It
seemed that the whole party were taking leave of
their senses. There was even a movement to turn
against the half-unconscious widow.
But now Nannie, the young girl, rose, very pale
and very resolute ; the only person composed and
self-possessed. ' Oh, hush ! ' she said, in trembling
tones, clasping her hands on her breast and facing
the spokesman ; ' what you say is blasphemy. This
man's death is not a judgment on Everwell ; it is
because his time has come. He is not given to
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 167
Satan and to flames ; because he trusted in God and
God is love. And this woman shall be honoured
and helped by us all, because she is in gi'eat sorrow
and her children are fatherless. Go away, all of
you, and leave this house of mourning ; and let her
and me do what is right for the dead man, for it is
a profane and wicked thing not to care for the dead
reverently and kindly.'
Nannie's expostulation, still more, perhaps, her
quietness and hallowed face, were not without their
effect. Silence was restored and they all stared at
her blindly, while the children clung to her gown
and the widow kissed her hand. But to be super-
seded in this way was not pleasant to Samuel
Dykes. He had always been jealous of Kannie,
who was too much heeded by Alick and who
pulled the prophet contrariwise to what pleased his
'Woman,' he shouted now, 'you are setting
yourself against the holy prophet — it may be
because you would draw him to the sin of carnal
delight. The prophet has left this house, seeing it
is condemned by God. Are you so blind you can-
not understand that ? Why else, when the prophet
came to heal, is the man not healed ? Call Alick
back and he will tell you so, if you believe not
Nannie's attention had been distracted from
i68 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
Alick, and she had hardly noticed his disappear-
ance. Now she looked round with some uneasi-
' No/ she said, impetuously, ' do not call him
back. There is nothing he can do here. You are
all mistaken about Alick. He came to pray for the
man, but not to heal him. He did not think he
could heal him. He told me so as we came. He
is not a doctor, and he had no medicine for the poor
man's body. He has no more power to give life to
the dying than he has to judge the dead, as you
seem to think, either to flames or to the New
Poor Nannie, vehement and unforeseeing, thought
she was defending the truth merely and calming
over-strained nerves. She was unprepared for the
immediate result. There was a pause, as the people
looked at her and angrily silenced the fanatic when
he tried to reply in behalf of his absent master.
And then a rude, coarse voice was heard — that of
the man who had demanded a miracle ; and he
began with a long whistle and a laugh.
' You got the truth, good folk. That's the chap's
sweetheart and she knows, though he never meant
her to let on. Alick Eandle never healed no one,
bless you 1 He ain't the saint he give out, with a
key of his own for Heaven's gifts. He come here
for sport, and now the luck's gone against him, he
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 169
has cut and run. Will you come with me,
my pretty lass, gin you've turned against the
prophet ? '
Had Xannie loved Alick she might have re-
membered his reputation ; as it was she made no
attempt to repel the insinuations, to explain his
position, or to assert his sincerity. The man was
rude to her and she just ordered him out. He
went, and the crowd followed him.
Nannie thought no more of the rabble, and was
quite unaware that she had herself pulled down
the delicately - poised fabric of Alick's authority.
There was so much to be done for the helpless
woman and the six fatherless children ! A minister-
ing angel was Nannie in such a case. Some women
are born with that power of helping. There is a
magnetic touch in their fingers which soothes dis-
tracted nerves ; a tone in their voice which asserts
power to remove hindrances and endure anxieties ;
a charm in their whole being which irresistibly
suggests ' a correspondence fixed with heaven.' I
have seen the faculty highly developed in the ugliest
of Eve's daughters, and certain I am that superlative
female excellence, whether of mind or body, cannot
exist without it. 'Tis of the very essence of woman-
Hness, and can be altogether spared only in certain
few, tieless, self-centred old maids ; who, like the
Eumenides of old, may exist for a purpose, but
1 70 MR. BR YANT S MISTAKE
who are abhorrent alike to human kind and to the
Olympian gods. Nannie worked away with a will ;
but she was in a fidget about Alick. His flight
from the scene of failure had surprised her, as well
as his words on the way thither.
' Law now, it's Nan ! ' cried Mrs. Leach, delightedly.
' My dear, Patty is mad with you for not going
home. I'm thinking you had best stay here for the
night. I'm an old woman now, my dear, and have
seen life, what with my seven children and my two
husbands and all, and one thing I have learnt, if
nothing else. My dear, go where you are wanted
— that's what I've learnt, and don't be always
labouring for them as can help theirselves. If you
see a dusty room and a broom leaning up against
the wall handy, sweep, my dear, sweep ; the broom
can't sweep of itself. But as for what Patty says
about scouring milk cans as you can see your face
in already, and rubbing windows as you are like to
put your head through already for transparency,
I say it's waste of yourself, and contrairy to my
experience in a long and toilsome life, in which I
always did my dooty. Which means, Nan, that it's
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 171
not at the Farm where you are wanted, among grand
gowns and conventionabling ways, such as coming
in early from walking and the like ; but with me,
who am a poor sinful woman, none so over-truthful
as I'd wish, and often in want of a drop of liquor ;
and with my poor boy, who, I do believe, would lose
that poor head of his if he had the wife he loved,
and do a sight more good in Everwell without so
much ill convenience to himself. You don't know,
Nannie, never having had husbands to describe such
things to you, the awful hubbub it makes in a man's
nature, when he's in love with a young woman suit-
able to his means and position, and handsome, my
dear, like you, who yet won't say not so much as
" Oh my beloved ! " to him.'
Nannie burst out laughing, and kissed her aunt
* Give him hope, my dear,' said the woman,
hugging her till the girl could hardly breathe ;
' " Ann," said Jim Leach to me — he was mighty
taken with Alick afore ever I wedded him — " what
that boy wants is 'ope. It's meat and drink and
clothing for him. Give him 'ope, and he'll be the
greatest man in Everwell. Take it away from him,
Ann, and it's a bad job." And he's in there,
Nannie, with his head, poor dear. Go in, Nan, and
give him a supper of Hope. Suppose he kissed
you now, Nannie ! You wouldn't summons him
1 72 MR. BR YANT S MIST A KE
for assault, would you V said Mrs. Leach, winking
Nannie pushed open the door of the workshop
and found Alick kneeling in the dark, his head upon
his arm, and with an air of supreme despondency.
Clearly she was wanted. Clearly something was
wrong with the prophet.
She struck a light and bustled about, talking
easily and lightly, till she had procured him some
supper. ' Now, Alick, confess,' said the girl, sitting
beside him, and as much surprised by his yearning
acceptance of her cheerfulness as by his almost
ravenous appetite upon sight of the steaming cup
and the plate of cold meat which she placed before
him ; ' what did you have for dinner ? One dry
crust and mint sauce ? I'd like to give Dr. Verrill
my mind about the vegetable system ! ' Alick
prolonged the meal unnecessarily ; it was delightful
to have Nannie of her own free will sitting alone
with him, and waiting on him as if she were his
Mrs. Leach, looking in, was enchanted to see
them so familiar together.
' Bless you, my son and daughter-in-law,' she
murmured, retiring discreetly.
But after a while Nannie's forced cheerfulness
failed. She could not forget the dismal house she
had left and the dismal scene she had witnessed ;
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 173
and she began to marvel that her cousin could put
it aside so easily.
' Alick,' asked Nannie, suddenly, ' why did you
run away like that when that poor man died ? '
The unhappy prophet was himself again instantly, —
his confused, fearful, grieving self; and Nannie was
sorry she had introduced the topic, for the gloom,
which she had too successfully banished, over-
whelmed him again as he looked up at her with
woe-struck eyes, of which the haunting sadness
lingered in her memory long afterw^ards.
When, unable to restrain her curiosity, about an
hour later Mrs. Leach peeped in again, Nannie was
standing beside the seated Alick, holding his hand ;
w^hile his head leaned against her, and he gazed
into her calm eyes, and drank in the soothing
tones of her gentle voice. But what she w^as
by this time saying was very surprising to the
mother, who had hoped to witness mere love-
'Alick,' said Nannie, gravely and comfortingly,
' I cannot think God meant you to do it, and all for
a chance w^ord from a stranger. Listen, dear lad.
God did not send you to the man to do that. You
were sent to do just what you did — to pray for his
' When I hearken to you, Nannie,' responded
Alick, feverishly, 'it seems like I could think so
174 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
too. I don't know how it will be to-morrow, lass —
I don't know how it will be to-morrow ! '
Mrs. Leach was hopelessly puzzled, for she had
caught the ring of anguish in his tone.
For the last twenty-four hours a storm had been
raging at Everwell, and now in the intervals be-
tween the wind-gusts came downpours of drenching
rain. The season had been unusually dry, and in
dry weather the clay, alternating on this coast with
the sandstone, is liable to cracks and fissures, which
turn to landslips when the winter torrents begin.
In the village heavy rain always causes a commotion,
for an overflow of the beck is irritating no less than
unwholesome ; and the beck's overflow is almost
certain when the storm is coincident with a high
spring tide, as it was on this particular Sunday.
' Maybe the prophet has prayed against the flood,'
said one, and his hearers laughed.
' Then we're like to be drownded to-night,' re-
turned another ; and they all laughed again. The
people had been shocked by Sawyer's death yester-
day, and they wanted a laughing-block. They found
it in their prophet.
He passed along the street and the people stared
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 175
and said nothing ; a few nudged eacli other. No
one followed ; no one spoke to him. This was a
new sort of reception. Alick stopped and raised
his hand to his brow as if bew^ildered, for a
man grows accustomed to homage, and he feels a
blank when it is withdrawn. And Alick had never
had the firm self-confidence of genius ; far more
than he knew, his belief in himself rose out of
the belief of the people. He was startled by a
slap from behind, and a mocking voice quoting
Scripture like a very learned clerk, ' Prophesy ; who
is it that smote thee ? ' And again the people
laughed. And then, 'Where's your sweetheart,
Alick ? She's turned against you. She spake up
behind your back, she did. She told us the miracles
was tricks, my boy.'
To be jeered like this ? He who had moved the
people whither he would ? who had been admired —
feared — by that smooth-faced parson even ! The
recollection of Mr. Bryant reminded Alick of some-
thing. It was with the old feeling of inspiration
that he said, his eye flashing —
' The Lord would have you this day in His holy
temple. The Lord hath a controversy with you.
And He will show His power, to those who fear His
name and to those who fear it not.' And then he
walked on, calm and majestic, the prophet again
like Ezekiel or Isaiah.
176 MR. Bryant's mistake
But the feeling of inspiration passed, and the
next moment Alick longed to run away and hide
himself; for he had prophesied some sort of doom
to descend to-day upon Mr. Bryant, the lying
prophet, and now he had lost all sense of belief
in his own prophecy. It seemed to him absolutely
impossible that anything should happen. He seemed
suddenly to have fallen out of the atmosphere in
which miracles live. ' It is a trial of my faith,'
said Alick ; ' no ; it is a punishment for my sin.'
But he felt sure of nothing. The familiar voice
behind him which had guided and instructed was
quite silent. The light that was in him was dark-
ness. Alick began to wonder, even he himself, if
the light had ever really shone, if the voice had
ever really spoken.
It was too early for church. Alick turned aside
and wandered upon the cliff alone. In one place he
discovered that a great mass of rock had fallen
away and now lay foamed over by the breakers
below, so that the hill -top overhung. Landslips
at Everwell were noticed little except near the
dwellings of men ; only the jet seekers would care
for this one in an unfrequented place. Alick lay
on the wet grass crowning the cliff, and reflected
upon many things.
Suppose he had been wandering about last night,
as many a night before, upon those very rocks at
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 177
the time they had fallen, and had been drowned
in the flood ? How simple it seemed — how nearly
to have happened — without any notice from God at
all ! For that too seemed possible to Alick to-day ;
that he might come to a bad end somehow, without
God's interposing, or caring, or even knowing — he
who had been His prophet and had believed his
every hair numbered ! A groan burst from the
suffering lips. That the past should seem unreal to
him ! A sign — a sign he must have ! Alick
groaned and agonised for a sign ! Alone, unseen,
unheard, with prayer to his God, and great entreaty,
he commanded the rocks to move once more ; and
they obeyed him not. The tide thundered and
boiled, but the new face of the cliff was hard set and
not a pebble shook, though the rocks had moved last
night and had been cast into the sea — not at his word.
Could it be that the heavenly machinery had run
down too soon ? Were such accidents possible ?
But now at last the church bells began to peal, and
Alick rose and tried to accept simply and resignedly
his new position of one no longer powerful with
heaven ; to slip into church despised and neglected ;
to kneel a despairing penitent at the feet of the
very man he had denounced ; he, Alick, who had
ever spoken truth, but was to be rejected now
because he could do no miracle.
' I wish every one were as punctual as you, Alick,'
VOL. II 31
178 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
said Mr. Bryant, in his pleasant way. And he
passed into the vestry, wondering, with a discomfort
born of his now habitual apprehension, what Alick
Eandle was doing there all by himself half an hour
too soon. ' He is concocting some stupid interrup-
tion/ thought the clergyman.
But poor Alick was only resting and trying to
get warm and endeavouring to pray. He could
not fix his thoughts. The only thing his attention
could get hold of was the reflection that the land-
sHp might very easily have damaged the church ;
for it was a ruinous old building — often named un-
safe. 'I will speak to Sir Vincent about it this
very day,' thought Alick ; ' something should be
done to stave the cliff just there. It wants a wall
— a breakwater. The church is in danger.' And
he raised his eyes idly to the chancel arch above
his head. Long ago in Sir Charles's time, when
Alick had been a little boy not long resident at
Everwell, there had been alarm about a crack in
that arch ; and it had been secured, rudely enough,
for things were not done well at Everwell, by an
iron bar crossing the archway; a terrible eyesore
now to Mr. Bryant. AHck always remembered the
putting up of that clumsy support, for the job had
been completed on the very day of his mother's
second wedding ; and in the church itself, staring at
the archway, and at the newly married couple.
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 179
he had said with his notorious precocity, ' Whom
God has joined with a word only God can put
asunder; but what man has joined with iron, God
can put asunder by laughing at it.' And Jim
Leach had smiled good-humouredly ; but some one
boxed the child's ears for saying bad omens at a
wedding ; and Alick, who never could stand much
knocking about, turned sick with the blow and
the wedding cake and the excitement, and so had
his own unlucky speech fixed in his memory. He
remembered it to-day ; and querying whether he
had not had faint shadowings of the prophetic gift
even in his childhood, he raised his eyes idly to the
Lo ! the iron bar had yielded to the separating
force of the cracked arch when the foundations of
the church had shuddered. It had given way ; and
though on a dark morning like this its now entire
uselessness was observable only to a sharp eye like
his own, Alick, who knew the condition of the
crumbling stone -work, recognised at once that
disaster was only a question of time. He rose to
explain to Mr. Bryant, and to bid him send the
i8o MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
HoWEVEE, the vicar had gone out by the vestry
door, and Alick saw him at a little distance under
an umbrella, talking to the sexton's wife. The old
sexton himself was pulling away listlessly at the
bell-rope, and Alick put his hands to his ears as he
waited, for the clamour of the cracked and vociferous
bell addled his brain. Presently he went back to his
pew and sat down again. He was reflecting that Mr.
Bryant would by no means thank him for his infor-
mation. He would be incredulous. Alick knew so
many things of the church and of the rocks which
Mr. Bryant did not ! Mr. Bryant would say with
that genial, superficial, supercilious smile of his,
which Alick had learned to hate, ' My dear fellow,
your thoughts have been dwelling on your rash
denunciations till you have made yourself nervous.
We will have service as usual, and my sermon about
the altar-cloth ; and in the course of the week, if
Sir Vincent thinks well, the arch and the unsightly
iron bar shall be examined.'
Somehow Alick shrank from hearing Mr. Bryant
speak thus. He half thought of waiting till the
service was over, that no one might connect the
THE TURN OF THE TIDE i8i
danger he had discovered with the doom he had
prophesied, which had failed to come.
And now came the sudden and the horrible sugges-
tion, Might not this thing be of a truth the doom
he had foretold ? Alick was too utterly confused
and lost this morning to recognise anything clearly;
he did not discern the prompting of a fiend ; but he
did feel obscurely that this was not the kind of
sign for which he had made supplication.
' Are you not well, my good fellow ? ' asked Mr.
Bryant, kindly; wondering afresh what mischief the
hateful fool was after.
' Sir,' said Alick's stiffening lips, 'there is danger.
Look up ! '
' Pooh ! ' said the clergyman, good-humouredly.
And the congregation was beginning to arrive ;
among them Sir Vincent, who saw at once the wild
misery on Alick's face and thought he understood
it. Vincent kept his eye on him ; sane or insane,
the poor fool should make no scene in church to-
day. That ignorant, resolute, domineering eye
chained the prophet to his seat.
The service began, and Mr. Bryant proceeded
unmolested. Notwithstanding the storm the con-
gregation was large ; for some were interested in the
fate of the splendid new altar-cloth, and some in
the fate of the prophet's denunciations.
Mr. Bryant preached away very nicely about
1 82 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
superstition and the customs of the church ; and
once he paused when a fearful blast shook the very
walls of the edifice, and Alick Eandle half rose in
his seat, to be pushed back into his corner by a
feather touch from Nannie, and by a stare from
the vigilant eye which had taken him in charge.
And now the sermon was ended, and Mr. Bryant
left the pulpit and took his place, not without an
air of triumph, beside the altar, superb with its car-
dinal velvet, gold embroidery, and hothouse flowers.
There was a general sigh of relief. Alick had not
interrupted, no judgment had fallen, and the dis-
course had been tedious.
' Let me pass, Nannie,' murmured Alick, ' I feel
ill.' And he rose and moved feebly towards the
door, Vincent divining his intent and permitting
his departure, but with his own hand on the latch
of his pew, ready to act if necessary.
And again the wind -blast shook the frail old
church from end to end, and it seemed that the
ground shuddered and heaved, and that the storm
shrieked at the windows with a warning cry.
From far away came a sound like distant thunder.
The rocks had again been shattered from the face of
the cliffs, under the onset of fierce billows lashed by
the furious wind. Alick and all heard the sound,
and Alick alone at the moment knew its meaning.
;__ ^The noise, the rending, the horror were in the
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 183
church now. There came a sudden shower of
powdering mortar and little fragments of stone upon
the transept. Then the iron bar descended with a
crash, bringing with it the coping stones of the
chancel arch and blocks of crumbling masonry,
which for the first bewildering moment seemed to
the terror-struck crowd the entire building.
Alick Eandle, near the door and away from
the danger, gave a cry that was the shriek of a lost
There are few disasters which do not at the first
moment seem worse than they actually are. It
presently became clear that Everwell church had
not crashed to the ground like a card-house, that
after all not much had fallen, and that very few
people were hurt.
' Let the women and children go,' said Vincent,
quelUng an incipient panic ; and bade his mother
lead them out quietly. Nannie was the only rebel.
' Oh, you — you are hurt !' she exclaimed, no
one else noticing his bitten lip and clenched hand
as he gave his orders.
' What is that noise ? ' said Vincent, rousing him-
i84 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
It was the voice of Samuel Dykes, and all the
men in the church, and the women and the children
at the door, turned to listen.
' The Lord has made known His power and the
divine foreknowledge of Alick Eandle, His holy
prophet. The prophecy is fulfilled ! The judgment
is come ! ! Alick Eandle, servant of the Most High,
we kneel to thee.'
And he flung himself on the ground before
Alick. The heart-broken prophet pushed him away
with a groan.
Mr. Bryant's resolution was taken at once. He
was in the pulpit, above the ruins, above the
crowd and the trembling, miserable Alick. The
clergyman rapped with his knuckles on the wood
and compelled attention. The people looked and
drew nearer ; they had looked also at the cowed
and shuddering Alick, and had discerned that, alas !
there was no help in him.
' Listen now, my good friends,' said Mr. Bryant,
' and don't be such fools as to be carried away by
ignorance and alarm. Alick Eandle is an impostor.
He had planned this disaster to impose upon your
credulity. I found him here for an unlawful
purpose before you assembled. I have watched his
abject terror at his own success. I saw him try to
escape. I denounce him now as a liar and an impostor
and a murderer, who has not hesitated in attempting
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 185
wholesale destruction to prop up his tottering and
illegitimate authority. Do you deny what I say,
Alick Eandle ?' said the clergyman, raising his voice.
Slowly the young man made his way up the
church, feeling his way before him as if he were
blind. Then he stood before Mr. Bryant upon the
broken chancel steps, his head drooping, like a
culprit. Vincent and every one turned their eyes
on the prophet and waited for a reply. It did not
come for a moment ; then a great cry burst from
his white lips —
' My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me !'
A little boy took up a stone and threw it at
the deposed prophet.
EVIL NEWS KIDES POST
' Come, papa ! ' cried Georgina, later, ' I am en-
chanted to see you. I have been made sceptical
by exaggeration. You will tell me the real extent
of the mischief.'
His wife also crept to his side and laid her hand
in his. ' Ned ! ' Her tone meant many affectionate
things, and he kissed her.
' Dr. Verrill has told me of six persons injured,
Georgina,' replied Mr. Bryant. ' Emma, dearest, your
brother is one. I fear he is dangerously hurt.
They have got him home, though, comfortably, and
I sent a message myself for his eldest son. Vincent
has had a blow, Georgie, my child. I trust it is
The girl sat down and thought matters over.
After a time she slipped out alone and made her
way to the Heights. How unspeakably pretty she
looked as she laid her hands in gentle Lady
Katharine's, and then, overcome by emotion and
modesty, sobbed on the widow's shoulder. ' Ah, do
190 MR. Bryant's mistake
not be angry with me. Papa will be most dread-
fully angry. But I know you will understand how
I must feel. You won't let Vincent know I came ?
but if he should ask for me — oh, dearest Lady
Katharine, let me feel I am near. Oh, don't think
badly of me for coming. You — you know all I '
Lady Katharine was not the woman to send her
Before this Nannie, Alick, and Alick's one faithful
disciple had walked away silently from the church
out into the storm and the rain. Nannie, who knew
her dear lover had been hurt, was troubled to have
left him, and was in no mood to be kind to Alick.
' Send that man away,' she said imperiously, point-
ing to Samuel Dykes ; and Alick obeyed. When
they were alone Nannie stopped and said —
' Lad, was any of it true that the clergyman said
of you ? '
' Art thou going to doubt me, Nannie ? '
'You have been so strange this day or two,
Alick. Sir Vincent said '
' You think of no one but Sir Vincent ! ' burst
forth Alick. ' You are driving me mad, Nannie ! '
' Alick,' cried Nannie, ' I don't know what to
think of these signs and wonders. I'd a deal sooner
you had preached without. I can't see what good
they do any one, and they make you so strange.
I am afraid of you. You were nigh dying of grief
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 191
last night because you couldn't keep a man alive, as
if God would put life and death into the hands of a
man like you ! But now you have done worse, and
I don't feel sorry for you as I did yesterday ; and
even if I hurt you I must tell you what I think.
For now you have not tried to keep alive — you have
tried to kill ! And you have hurt, if you haven't
killed outright, two people whom I love ! ' cried
Nannie. ' Yes, Alick — my father, who belongs to
me, and — and — one whom I love more, and who is
far better and nobler than you, and who never
thinks of himself at all, and who ' Here
Nannie's vehemence landed her in tears. Alick was
utterly taken aback by her cruelty. He had ex-
pected restoration at her gentle hands, and lo ! she
was accusing him. He did not guess how upset
she was by simple fright at the accident and by Sir
'You do not understand, lassie,' protested Alick,
feebly ; ' it was not my doing.'
' Ay, it was your doing. Why couldn't you have
looked up, Alick, and have seen the arch was
broken ? You were there before the time. You
might have looked about and have seen and have
kept the folk away. Then my lover would not
have been hurt, and I might have forgiven thee ! '
' Won't thou forgive me, Nannie ? ' She looked
at him, surprised by the anguish of his tone. So
192 MR. Bryant's mistake
far she had been merely railing; now she was
struck by his note of confession.
' What do you mean, lad ? No, no, I would not
forgive you if I thought you could have helped it
and did not. Alick, were you so bad as that 1 Tell
me the truth. Did you do it on purpose ? '
' It's none so easy to tell you, Nannie, when you
say you won't forgive me ! I will give up trying
after goodness,' he cried, his self-control giving way ;
' I will lie, and let the devil get my soul, and make
thee forgive me. It's thee I care for — not God, nor
heaven, nor nought but only thee ! '
' Alick, you are wicked ! ' cried Nannie, shrinking
from him. ' If you had been a good man at all you
could not say or do such things. I will have no
more to do with you. You are wicked ! '
It had come — the thing Alick had dreaded.
Not the world only, but Nannie, even his Nannie,
was saying he had never been led by God at all.
He made one appeal, out of the agony of his own
tottering faith —
' Nannie, thou shalt listen. I call God, and His
Son, and His Holy Spirit to witness '
' Alick ! ' shrieked Nannie, ' I will not listen to
you blaspheming God. Do not take God to witness.
It is enough to make Him smite you ! '
She turned from him, not heeding his despairing
cry, 'Nannie! Nannie!' She had forsaken him, God
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 193
had forsaken him. He had been a liar, a murderer,
a blasphemer ; possessed by a devil. He was
abandoned to him now. The cup of Alick's anguish
was full. Nannie stood at a little distance, her
strong slender young frame drawn to its full height
and her lips curling in passionate horror. Did she
speak it out of some unworded reverie, or was it
one of the tricks of his overheated fancy that he
heard the words in N'annie's silver tones ? ' N'o, no,
I never loved you. I hate you now.'
A frenzy came upon him. They were close to
the edge of the cliff. He could drag her to the
precipice and hurl her and himself over it easily —
easily and with demoniac joy. He had dreamed the
deed not many days since, and the impulse came to
him now with the familiarity of an action already done.
Alick dug his elbows into the yielding turf and
fastened his teeth in his clenched fist in the heart-
eating eftbrt to withstand that appalling desire. He
remembered once striking at Sir Vincent, and the
relief it had afforded him to do even that much,
though the strong man's easy mastery had daunted
him in an instant. Amid the drifting spars of his
shipwrecked self-restraint Alick yet saved this much
— the consciousness that he had not now to deal with
a man more powerful than himself, but with a defence-
less girl, who was absolutely in his power. If she were
to be saved, he himself alone could be her saviour.
VOL. II 32
194 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
Nannie knew nothing of her danger. She was
startled from her indignant reverie by Alick's sudden
leap to his feet with a wild, a grating, a horrible
laugh, designed to exorcise the devil possessing him,
but which paralysed Nannie with fear. She recoiled
in terror from his wild looks and unaccountable
gestures. Then with sudden realisation of her posi-
tion she turned to flee. She screamed, but there was
none to hear, and he overtook her with one bound.
Whether this passion of Alick's were of hate or
of love, she was at its mercy.
' Thou canst not escape me, lass ! ' said Alick,
with his savage laugh ; ' thy pretty face has sent me
to the devil, and thou shalt pay for it' He had
her by the arm, and with resistless force was dragging
her to the precipice.
Nannie had no thought but that he was murder-
'Wilt thou buy thy life with a kiss, Nannie?'
he said ; ' I have loved thee long !' Nannie's blood
curdled, as again his laugh rang upon the air.
'Push me over if thou wilt, Alick, and have
done with it,' shrieked the girl. ' I will not kiss
He kissed her, however, savagely ; all the pent-
up passion of years breaking forth. If Nannie
could have got away from him she would have
leaped over the precipice for escape.
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 195
But all the time he was recovering ; the wish to
slay her had passed ; his senses and his self-control
were returning ; and with them the agony of remorse
which belonged to his restored reason.
' If thou hast ever loved me, Alick, let me go !'
implored Xannie, beside herself.
He flung her from him upon the grass. Then
sprang himself over the edge of the cliff, down to a
ledge of jutting uneven rock, where he alighted
somehow on his feet, and made another leap to the
next shelf, and then on again.
Xannie, terror-struck, crawled to the edge and
saw him still on his feet and \igorous, descending
the face of the cliff where assuredly he, if any one,
had never climbed before — till he reached the beach,
deserted at this place and hour. Then he looked
up and saw her watching him.
* Xannie !' cried Alick, ' I have loved thee well ."
And he fled along the lonely shore, out into the
storm wind as if the fiends were pursuing liim.
Xaxxie's strength was exhausted by the struggle,
and the fear, than which no suffering is worse. An
hour later, at four o'clock, when the stormy autumn
196 MR, BRYANTS MISTAKE
day was already darkening, she was still there upon
the grass, alone and nerveless, where Alick had left
her. She was thinking it all over, and vaguely
recalling the events of the day, and how she had
risen early and had gone to church at twelve o'clock
as usual on Sunday ; and the minister, Mr. Bryant,
who was her uncle, had preached a long sermon ;
and the prophet's foretold doom had come ; and her
father and her dear lover were hurt. And she had
railed at Alick thoughtlessly and unkindly till she
had driven him wild. ' He might have killed me,'
she said ; ' Alick was never one to think what he
was doing when he was angry. But he kissed me.
And now Sir Vincent will never kiss me again, for I
cannot wash the mark of Alick's lips away !' She
sobbed, poor child, shaken and miserable, and de-
serted — sobbed with passionate vehemence. Those
tears did her good. She felt more like a frightened
crying child who wants a mother's protection ; less
like a heartsick woman with the weight of the world
on slender shoulders.
After a time she struggled to her feet and crept
wearily away. ' I will go to him,' she murmured,
' I will go and tell my dear lover everything. He
will know what to do about Alick ; and I think he
will speak kindly to me.' Nannie thought with
dreary defiance how little she cared now should
any one be surprised by her seeking the gentleman.
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 197
Alick had injured her too much in her own esteem
for her to care longer if she suffered in the esteem
of others for her true lover's sake. It seemed to
Nannie that the only thing which could in the
least console her for what she had endured, would
be to throw herself into Vincent's arms in the sight
of the whole world, no matter what any one thought
of her conduct. But she was too thoroughly tired
and weakened to walk fast. Her knees gave way
under her, and often she paused to rest, sometimes
running a few steps, though that meant supervening
exhaustion and a sitting down on the damp wayside
to recruit her failing strength. ' Oh, it is very, very
far,' said Nannie ; ' the path must have stretched, I
think. I shall never get to him.' Still she pictured
her lover nursing his bruises alone in the comfortable
library which John had once let her peep into ; and
then herself welcomed and sitting by him on the
soft sofa with his dear arm round her and his lips
upon her hair, while she told him all.
At the lodge, the gatekeeper was talking to a
friend about the accident, and did not interrupt
herself to address Nannie. Old John, too, at the
house, let her pass without a question, only greeting
her with, ' Hey, my pretty lass, thy sweetheart
should have promised, like his Master, to build the
temple again in three days. But don't thee take
on about him, my pretty little lass.'
198 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
Nannie made no answer. She walked past
John Mke one in a dream, and no one stopped her.
She opened the library door, looking for the welcome
and the embrace all just as she had fancied it. But
the room was empty, left as it had been primly
tidied by the ugly housemaid. It had not been
used to-day. She returned to the hall, where she
had once sat on a carved chair, and Sir Vincent,
whom she had come to fetch that he might comfort
Alick, had himself brought her a cup of tea from
the drawing-room before she went out with him for
their first long walk together in the dark. Did any
one but herself remember that incident ? Ah yes 1 he
did, she was sure, for he had loved her even then !
— long, long ago, before N'annie had loved him !
She smiled to herself, remembering how his hand
had trembled as he gave her that tea ; and how he
had then been nothing — or — well, hardly anything
to her ! But Sir Vincent was not in the hall to-
day. A strange gentleman suddenly appeared, and
with him was little Dr. Verrill, his coat off and his
eyes dancing with pleasurable excitement. Nannie
stood aside to let them pass. ' Perhaps you are
right,' said the stranger ; ' I have not encountered
your theory before, but it seems plausible.'
'Nannie Eandle,' said Dr. Verrill, 'go home and
change your stockings. You have no time for
catching cold at present ; your parent, I regret to
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 199
say, is an unwholesome, carnivorous, apoplectic sub-
ject.' Nannie hardly attended and made no answer.
Dr. Verrill passed out.
Mr. Kane remained. He looked at her for a
minute, then touched her familiarly on the arm.
' What are you doing here V he asked, abruptly,
still surveying her with an interest which Nannie,
who knew nothing about him, did not understand.
Offended, she twitched her shoulder away and walked
on with too much dignity to heed where she was
going. She began mechanically to ascend the stair.
Who was this rude man, and why did he follow her?
She ran heedlessly on, her light foot making no
sound on the thickly carpeted stair. Mr. Kane
turned back. ' This must be put a stop to at all
hazards,' he said to himself ' Look here, John,'
said the honourable gentleman, ' there's a httle girl
gone upstairs with a message to her ladyship.
When she comes down, send her to me in the library.
Do you hear ?'
'That's Nannie Eandle, sir,' said John the officious;
' she's a sweet, pretty creature, barring her red hair,
and the sweetheart of Alick, the holy prophet'
' John is right,' said Mr. Kane, retreating, * she
is a very pretty creature ; too pretty for the
prophet and certainly, as poor Emma says, far too
pretty for Vincent. Well, I will find out a little
what she is made of
200 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
Nannie reached the top of the first stair and
went blindly along the passage, hoping she should
meet no one, and meaning to descend again the
moment that very familiar gentleman had disap-
peared. It was already dusk in the gloomy old
house ; and her heart beat with mere childish shy-
ness. She paused, hiding by the dark curtain of
the small high-up window, with its immense depth
of wall and wide sill. What if some one came and
thought her a thief? She could not tell any one
she was looking for Sir Vincent. It was all old
John's fault ; John was always so stupid. It was
not easy to know how to ask for Sir Vincent. ' Oh,
if he would only come !' thought Nannie.
Presently some one opened a door on the opposite
side of the passage and looked out — a tall woman's
figure, and the girl shrank up into her curtain as a
voice said, ' I thought I heard some one moving out
there. Don't you think we should have a light,
dearest Lady Katharine ? and the fire grows hot.
May I leave the door open for a minute ?'
Nannie felt glued to the ground ; it seemed im-
possible now that she should ever get away from
her hiding-place. She was afraid to look round.
' Oh, if he would only come !' she repeated to her-
The scrape of a match within the room made
her turn involuntarily ; could it be he ? For a
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 201
minute she could see only the glare from the newly-
lighted candle ; then something at the far side of a
large room like a sofa, and a dark figure sitting
beside it. Then, as the flame of a newly lighted
candle will, the light died down, and for a few
seconds the room was dark as before ; then it
flared up, and Nannie rubbed her eyes, and saw
everything distinctly. The seated figure with
back to the door was Lady Katharine. She was
watching some one who lay upon the couch — a long
nerveless figure with outstretched quiet hands and
a white face. The eyes were open, rather restless
and puzzled in expression. It was Sir Vincent.
Nannie's heart died within her. She forgot every-
thing else. A cry rose to her lips, and she pressed
forward to get to his side. Wliy, oh why had she
ever left him, even at his own command, when she
had known before any one else that he was hurt ?
Yet at the door Nannie paused, for she was not
so carried away by love or anything else as to force
herself in upon his mother without a moment's
consideration. His mother ! But there was another
woman in the room too. Vincent stirred uneasily
and looked round in a helpless, appealing way
at this person, who was fidgeting the candlestick,
and his lips moved. Then he stretched his hand
towards her, perhaps to stop the rattling and the
flickering, perhaps for something he wanted. ' You
202 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
want Georgina, darling ? ' said Lady Katharine,
softly, pushing the hair off his brow as if he were
her little boy again. Miss Bryant handed, a little
awkwardly and roughly, so thought poor Nannie,
the drop of water or whatever it was he was sup-
posed to want. She looked very tall and erect and
not somehow as if she cared very much. But
Vincent ? He smiled and faintly nodded at her
with a pleased and grateful air, which Nannie saw if
Georgina didn't. In truth, Vincent ( who had remained
on actively helping at the scene of the accident, till
badly stunned in a second and more extensive de-
scent of stonework) was pleased and grateful, for
the cold water was reviving ; and he smiled at the
giver because it was too laborious to speak. But
he had no clearer notion of his benefactress than
that she was some charitable woman with a soft
hand, one of his maiden aunts most likely, who was
helping his mother. He understood that his mother
was there by his side, and he knew he was all right,
and was not in the least anxious or worried about
anything. But he had not so much as recognised
Georgina. How could Nannie guess all that ? She
saw his upward gaze, long because languid ; and she
saw his smile. And then she could bear no more.
She burst into tears there outside his door ; her
hands clasped and her head leaning against the
wall of the gloomy passage which led to his room.
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 203
It was not till the child sobbed that Georgina took
notice of her presence. Now she started back from
the sofa with a scared face, exclaiming in a hoarse
whisper, not loud enough to attract the attention
of the stupefied Vincent, * Oh, look — look at that
dreadful girl ! She must not come here ! ' Lady
Katharine, much alarmed, turned to the open door.
For a moment she could not conceive who the dis-
hevelled, rain-stained, weeping young creature could
be. Then she remembered all sorts of imaginary
horrors. ' Oh, do please take her away ! ' gasped
Georgina ; ' this is terrible ! Suppose he were to
see her ! ' Lady Katharine rose swiftly and moved
out of the room, shutting the door after her and
leaving her son in Miss Bryant's care.
Then it was not the handsome Caroline ! There
was a measure of relief in that discovery. This
seemed a gentle, yielding creature, not pretty enough
to have a strong hold upon Vincent ; for weather-
beaten Nannie was not looking her best just then ;
and, like John, Lady Katharine regarded red hair
as a deformity. The widow was a woman easily
204 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
seduced into kindness. She took the child's hand
and led her to her own room. Nannie stumbled
about over unexpected steps in the darkness of the
passage and the lady had to support her ; com-
passion filled the good woman's heart as she
seated the sobbing girl on the sofa by her side,
and, still holding the little tear-stained hand,
said, gently though firmly, ' My poor child, you
must not come here ; I cannot permit it for a
' Is he very ill ? ' moaned Nannie, ' is he
dying ? '
'No,' replied Lady Katharine, cheerfully and
Nannie gazed wistfully at the gentle lady to
see if she spoke the truth, and Lady Katharine
studied the poor little anxious face, and felt ex-
tremely angry with Vincent.
' Oh, if I might only do something for him ! '
' He has all he wants,' said the widow. ' Miss
Bryant is with him.' Then she continued, 'Miss
Bryant and Sir Vincent are greatly attached to
each other. I hope soon she will be Lady Leicester.*
Nannie snatched her hand away and sat up very
straight, and said nothing. There was something
in the slight emphasis her ladyship put upon ' Miss '
and ' Sir ' and ' Lady Leicester ' that made hei*
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 205
breath come in quick gasps and her heart give a
sudden bound. He had offered to make her little
self ' Lady Leicester ! ' Nannie thought she had
never realised what it all meant before.
It was very silly ; Nannie would not have done
it another day when she had not had so many
shocks ; she hated herself for it. But after twist-
ing a corner of her dress desperately, and looking
at the toy terrier who was whining and licking
her hand in sympathy ; and pinching herself, and
even trying secretly to repeat a hymn to divert her
mind, she suddenly succumbed to another burst
of hysterical sobs, burying her face in her hands in
vexation and shame, and abandoning all attempts to
keep up her dignity.
* My poor, poor child ! ' said Lady Katharine.
And then she began the inevitable expostulations.
' My son has been very wrong,' said the lady,
' very, very wrong. My dear, for your own sake,
I must say to you once and for all, never see him
again. At whatever cost to yourself, put an end
to it all from this moment.'
' No, no,' pleaded Nannie, ' he has not been wrong.
He has been very, very good to me. He wants to
marry me ! '
' Oh, my poor little girl, has he let you think
that ? My dear, it is quite and entirely out of the
question. Never think of it again, my poor child.
2o6 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
It could not be. You would make each other most
' I know. I told him so/ said Nannie, but so
faintly that Lady Katharine misunderstood her.
' I am afraid, my dear, Sir Vincent never really
thought of it. He has been very, very wrong. I
am not trying to excuse him. I can only hope he
did not understand that you were seriously believing
in him. He lias been attached to Miss Bryant for
a very long time,' continued Lady Katharine ; ' long
before ever he came here he was her declared lover.
They are quite suited. She loves him deeply and
they will be very happy together. If for a time he
— oh, how wrong of him ! — let his fancy stray to
some one else, half seriously — he must overcome
that. He turns now to his true love. He is very
happy at this moment with Miss Bryant tending on
him. My dear, you must think of him as already
tied. You are not so selfish as to want to steal
another woman's husband ? '
' But he is not her husband ! ' said Nannie.
' Will Miss Bryant not care if — if — he and I '
' That depends,' replied the lady, ' on how far it
has gone between you and him. Some things no one
would ask her to forgive.' Lady Katharine paused
and looked searchingly at the girl. Nannie's heart
beat till she felt sick, but she was too dispirited for
vociferous indignation. She rose.
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 207
' If you please, my lady, I am not quite sure
what you mean ; but I have done nothing for any
one to forgive,' she said with quivering lips.
' Sit down, my dear,' said the lady, kindly. ' I
do not think you have been intentionally wrong,
though you have been most foolish. You must let
me help you out of your troubles, will you ? Do
not interrupt me, dear child. I know how painful
it is to hear any one blamed whom we love.
It is very painful to me to blame my son, for I
love him most dearly myself. But for the sake of
your precious character, Nannie, I must speak, and
you will help me by listening silently, won't you ? '
' But you don't understand him ! ' cried Nannie,
her hand on his ring; and she would have said
more, but again those silly tears stopped her.
' All, my child, I fear I understand better than
you do. I know only too well there can be no
question of marriage between Sir Vincent and you.
And therefore any sort of flirtation — and that is all
it has been with liim — is distinctly wrong. And
most dangerous, Nannie. Believe me, my dear.
Sir Vincent, I am sure, ought to marry Miss Bryant,'
said Lady Katharine ; ' he has led her to expect it.
If he can explain to her that it was only a passing
fancy for you, Nannie, and that he deeply repents
it ; that he will never see you again, and that his
allegiance has returned to her from whom it ought
2o8 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
never to have swerved, Miss Bryant is such a
noble woman that I believe she will pardon him,
and they will devote themselves to making each
other happy. They will be happy, because they
have the same tastes, friends, interests, ways of life-
When that is not the case, a man and a woman
very quickly drift apart and come to great misery.
I know, and Sir Vincent knows perfectly well,
whatever he may have said to you, and you will
know, my dear, if you will think it over, that you
could be no companion to him, and he would not be
any better able to be a companion to you. He
must marry a lady ; and you will be far happier in
the station to which God has called you ; I hope
in a little while the wife of some good, honest,
working man.' Nannie sat long silent, and the
lady hoped she had made an impression ; but she
began to perceive that the girl was very, very
pretty, and to reflect that Vincent would not give
her up without a struggle. N'annie was thinking
less of the kind lady's platitudes than of her lover's
smile at Georgina.
'My dear,' said Lady Katharine, 'he will get
over this fancy for you if you are firm and do not
encourage it. It rests with you, my child, whether
all this folly and wrong of his is done away without
any great mischief to yourself or him, or whether
you and he, and alas ! others too, have to go through
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 209
great suffering, and perhaps to feel pain and remorse
to the very day of your deaths. You would not like
to cause him great pain, Nannie ? '
' No, my lady, I would rather die,' said Nannie.
' Did I not hear,' said Lady Katharine, cautiously,
' that it was expected you would marry your cousin,
the preacher ? ' The girl started and crimsoned
painfully. She shook her head ; but the lady de-
tected there was * something ' between her and
Alick. ' My dear, you must be careful how you
encourage attentions from any man unless you
mean to make him some return. Do you know
what the physician, who saw that young man at
my son's request, said of him ? He asked if he had
not been crossed in love. Would it not be a sad
thing, my dear child (for the sake of a folly which I
quite believe has been innocent so far, but which
cannot go on being innocent now your eyes are
opened), that a sweet girl like you should break
that good man's heart ? '
Nannie was silent. She had for a moment
thought of confiding in the gentle lady ; but it was
impossible. No one would understand her relation
to Alick ; even to Nannie herself it seemed that his
unpermitted embrace had raised a barrier between
herself and Vincent, which only Vincent himself
could explain away. And would he ? Suppose the
lady were right, and if she, Nannie, were out of the
VOL. II 33
210 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
way, he would be happy; returned to his first love,
of whose existence he had told her himself, at
whom he had smiled ? Ah, that smile I Would she
ever be able to forget it ?
Lady Katharine called her maid and directed
her to show Nannie out. She hoped she had
effected something ; and even Vincent could not
accuse her of unkindness to the poor, infatuated
child. Dealing with her son seemed far more
difficult to the timid widow ; happily for the present
he was liors de combat, and only fit to be spoiled
Nannie, under Miss Eobinson's guardianship, was
nearing the hall door when she was detained by
John ; and Mr. Kane himself appeared, saying he
had a note he wished her to take for him to her
' Well, if it ain't enough to turn that girl's head,'
said the lady's-maid to the butler, 'the way all
the men take notice of her. My lady's brother
putting her to sit in the library indeed ! And I've
seen Sir Vincent 'and her the sugar-basin like she
was his sister. No one never asked me into no
libraries when I was fifteen nor five and thirty
E VIL NE WS RIDES POST 21 1
neither, nor gave me tea in a china-cup, with sugar
or without. And / never was draggled like that
there Nannie, and my father was a tradesman.'
* It's looks as does it,' said John, grimly ; * the
men keep their place uncommon easy when a female
has looks like yourn.'
Nannie waited listlessly in the library till she
became aware that this extraordinary gentleman
was not getting on with his note, but was looking
at her with far more interest than she could under-
stand or like. She rose. ' Is the letter for my
father ready, if you please, sir ? '
' Not quite. They call you Nannie, I think ? '
said the gentleman ; ' did you see Sir Vincent,
Nannie ? '
' No, sir. I saw her ladyship.'
' Did she speak to you about Sir Vincent ? '
Nannie was more alarmed than she could explain to
' If you will give me the note, sir,' she faltered,
' I will go home at once.'
' Oh, the note is humbug,' said Mr. Kane, toss-
ing it into the fire and rising ; ' come now, don't be
frightened, I want to speak to you! Nannie was
' I cannot think you have anything to do with
me, sir,' she said.
' No,' replied Mr. Kane, ' I suppose not.' After
213 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
a pause he continued gravely, ' Probably I should
not thrust myself in your way, Nannie, if I did not
happen to know that you have got into an uncom-
fortable and perhaps a mischievous complication
with two singularly unsuitable lovers, which I and
all persons interested in you would like to see you
well out of Mr. Kane for once in his life was in
earnest, but he was a comedian by nature, and had
played maliciously too long to keep a touch of light
scorn out of his tone as he spoke of the child's two
lovers, and Nannie was quick to detect it.
' Sir,' she said, steadily, ' if I have two honest,
good, noble lovers, their love is a solemn and a
holy and a good thing, and I will not have it spoke
light of. What business is it of yours, sir ? ' she
' I am afraid I shall startle you if I say.' There
was a short silence, and Nannie's vague terror was
increasing. She almost thought of calling John.
' Mrs. Bryant spoke to you once of a child named
Mary,' said Mr. Kane. ' If I tell you a little more,
you will be discreet and remember that you must
not spread scandals ? '
' I don't want to hear nothing about it ! ' cried
the girl ; but he went on unheeding —
' There are one or two persons, Nannie, who feel
a moral certainty — in a day or two I shall make it
an absolute certainty — that there is a mistake about
E VI L NE WS RIDES POST 2 1 3
you. Nannie Eandle had high cheek bones, depend
upon it, and a red face like Caroline's. I believe
you are not Nannie Eandle at all, but that little
girl they called Mary Smith.'
' Wlio dares to say such a thing ? ' exclaimed
* If I have told you,' said Mr. Kane, so seriously
now that she could not but attend, ' believe me it is
with the intention of benefiting you. Your parents
did you an injury ; they would like now to be of
service to you. If you had not been so neatly dis-
solved into somebody else it would have been more
easily accomplished ; but stiU it shall be managed
' Then did you know Mrs. Smith, sir ? ' asked the
bewildered Nannie, ' and that bad wicked man who
deceived and killed her ? '
' Did he deserve those adjectives ? Yes. I
know him too. He lives chiefly in America. He
is a lonely, unfortunate wretch without one tie or
stake in life. It has been a matter of interest to
him to find he has a daughter alive — and beautiful,
Miss Nannie. He sees it would be desirable for her
to leave this place, and he would like to take her
away to the other side of the world and make her
a lady. At least he has some such scheme in his
head, if he can manage it quietly and comfortably
for all parties.'
2 1 ^ MR. BR YANTS MIST A KE
' Without her consent ? ' said Nannie, flushed
' Oh, he would gain her consent when she under-
stood that he could make her a fine lady instead of
a farmhouse nobody.'
* If it is me you mean, sir,' said Nannie, ' I have
wished sometimes to be a lady, yes ! But I would
not care to have anything to do with a man of that
sort, not if he was my father, nor no one. I've
been used to honest people all my life, and should
hate to be among any other ! '
' Mrs. Bryant exaggerated his crimes to you.
You would find him much like anybody else.
Come, would you like him to be indifferent to his
pretty daughter's existence ? or to leave her an
innocent cheat personating somebody else, and
among people who don't want her ? ' Nannie was
silent ; she felt stunned. ' Let the idea simmer in
your brain, my dear. But one hint for you to shape
your present conduct by. You will not be allowed
either of the two lovers we alluded to.'
' That's for me to say, sir.'
' It is the one point upon which we all agree.
We are all resolved that you shall be worried out of
Everwell, for as surely as you stay here you will fall
a prey to one of those men. And to put it plainly,
the one is as much too good for you as the other is
not good enough. Come, your father's daughter is
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 215
bound to show a little common sense in her affairs
of the heart. There are other fish in the sea,
Nannie ; a great many more — and bigger ones — in
America than in the village of EverwelL'
The gentleman's calm tone in disposing of her
fate frightened her. She sank panting into a chair
and stared at him. ' I don't believe it is true,' she
' I will prove it to you in a few days. You
will be discreet till I give you leave to speak ? '
' I have not promised not to tell what you say,
sir. I shall speak of it at once to my father — him
whom I considered my father ; and maybe to Mrs.
Bryant, who knew her — that poor Mrs. Smith.'
'You had better speak to Mrs. Bryant first.
She will appeal more powerfully to your discretion
than I can.'
* What is the name of the man you say is my
father, sir ? '
'Ask Mrs. Bryant.'
' In America, you said ? '
'I said he lived chiefly in America. It is a
pleasant country, Nannie — a country where pretty
girls are liked. You would get on well there.'
' No, sir,' said Nannie, ' I should never get on
well unless I was with people whom I loved and
respected, and who loved and respected me.'
Her lip trembled, but she faced the man boldly
21 6 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
with her grave eyes unfaltering and her soft voice
distinct and clear. He shrugged his shoulders. It
was enough for to-day to have made her acquaint-
ance. So he took her to the door and let her go.
' Emma can tell her the rest/ he said to himself.
' I think I am rather afraid of her. By Jove,
though, she is a most lovely girl ! The grave, sober,
good little thing about her lovers ! She can take
care of herself, I fancy. She has more sense and
more character than her mother. All the same she
has got herself into a scrape with Vincent — d — n
him ! I suppose I shall have eventually to tell
Katharine the whole thing. I can't be a party
with friend Bryant in imposing her upon the already
suspicious bucolic ; and some scandal was inevitable
once Emma and I had met. The Bryants must
clear off out of this, and the sooner the better, and I
must hand the child over to Katharine if she won't
take to me. Katharine's sense of duty would make
her kind to her, and I should to a certainty get
tired of the chit before I had had her two months
on my shoulders,' he said, sneering. Nevertheless
what remnant of heart he had, Nannie had somehow
succeeded in touching. He was determined to save
her at least from Vincent.
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 217
The girl had not gone far before she sat down to
weep. In her whole life put together she had never
been so overwhelmingly miserable. Sorrow had
invaded her suddenly upon all sides ; heavy storm-
clouds and a night of thick shadow rested upon her
future. ' I have no longer two lovers/ she mourned ;
' if I am an impostor and the child of such bad,
disgraceful, wicked people, no one will want me for
a sweetheart any longer.'
She sat long with heart aching to distraction, watch-
ing the dull light fading in the gloomy, tempest-torn
west. The wind had fallen now — only reviving now
and then in a short sighing gust like the last exhausted
sobs of a great weeping. The tide too was at its
lowest, and though there were white horses chafing
upon the sea, the billows no longer thundered against
the battered and trembling cliffs. There is some-
thing numbing in great pain, and as Nannie sat
there and sorrowed, her thoughts were not very
distinct nor intelligent. There was only one clear
result of the day's woes to her. She must give her
dear lover up. Her love, her king, her bright par-
ticular star ! Fate had intervened, and not the gods
themselves are strong enough to fight against Fate.
2i8 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
Fate had taken her lover away from her for ever.
It seemed to Nannie that for weeks things had
been tending this way, and this one day's work had
just brought in the end. He had told her himself
that she must give him up unless she were prepared
to abandon Alick entirely from that moment. And
right or wrong she had not abandoned Alick in the
way he had meant. Nay, she had been more with
her cousin, more tender to him than before. She
had not liked it, but escape had been somehow im-
possible. She had held his hand ; he had leaned
his head against her breast ; to-day, alas ! alas ! he
had kissed her. ' It has not made me his — no ! '
she cried, indignantly, ' but it has robbed me of my
sweetheart. The lady said I must put a barrier
between him and me. She did not know it was
there already ! '
And now there were all these other things.
Lady Katharine had told her plainly that for Sir
Vincent to marry her would spoil his life. Lady
Katharine had said that Vincent would love Miss
Bryant again, if she, Nannie, were out of the way.
Nannie had only to believe it to give him up. And
Vincent had told her himself that he had loved Miss
Bryant ! and ah ! that unlucky smile of his was
' May I not see him again ? ' she questioned,
sadly. 'The lady said not. But would he not
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 219
think me faithless ? Oh, I am not — I am not. I
must tell him so. But it is better he should think
me faithless than that I should spoil his life ! No,
I will not have him think that ! I will write to
him and send him back his ring. Shall I tell him
I saw him smile at her ? No ; he would think I
was angry. He would think he had done something
WTong. He has not ! I will only tell him I have
given it all up, and that I don't want to see him
again. And that he is not to be sad thinking of
me, for he has never given me anything but great
happiness. Only he must not think me faithless.
I could not bear it. For myself, I shall be an old
maid like Miss Verrill, and I shall think of him
every day. And perhaps in the next world — ah,
no ! She will be there too ! Oh, it is giving him
up for ever — for ever ! I wish I could like Miss
Bryant better ! ' said poor Nannie, rising and clench-
ing her hand ; ' and I should like to know it from
himself! Se, told me he had given up caring for
her. Oh, my love — my love ! '
She was in the glen now ; her lover's glen,
where he used to come and kiss her. Never again
— never, never again.
Nannie discerned a figure coming away from the
farmhouse, and she waited with a weary feeling of
disgust. It was Mrs. Bryant, who had been to
inquire for her injured brother.
220 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
Eemembrance flashed across Nannie. The strange
gentleman had bidden her seek confirmation of his
tale from this very woman ; she would do it at
once. 'And oh !' moaned the girl, 'it is the end of
everything ! If there were no other reason for
giving him up, this is reason enough. I was not fit
to mate with him before, but now Even the
light-spoken gentleman said so ! He said my father
in America would make me a lady, but that nothing
could make me good enough for Sir Vincent ! '
Nannie pressed her hand to her side, and waited for
Mrs. Bryant. And the woman embraced her — oh
Nannie drew away and sat down on a rock
beside the path and looked at Emma so gravely and
questioningly that the woman divined instinctively
that their relation was changed. For the warmth of
her caress had recalled a suspicion to Nannie's mind.
Patty and Caroline had talked of it in their coarse
way often enough lately, and though Nannie had
scouted the idea in words, it had taken some hold
of her mind.
* I believe, girls,' Patty had said, ' that Mary
Smith was Mrs. Bryant's own!
' Aunt Emma,' said Nannie, her eyes dark and
mournful in the dusk, ' could a person go about among
others and mix with them, and do the same things
they were doing, and talk about little stupid
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 221
matters, and all the while have a dark corner in
her heart full of ghosts that no one knew anything
about ? '
' Yes, yes, Nannie !' said the woman, stretching
out yearning hands.
' What are the ghosts, Aunt Emma ? '
' There are many, Xannie ! Oh so many. One
is afraid to look at them. The ghost of lost happi-
' Ko, no,' interrupted Xannie, ' that is a crown.
I would not put that in the dark corner ! I would
not be afraid to look at that !'
' The things one has lost, Xannie ; hopes that
came to nothing, pleasure that changed to pain ;
loneliness ; and fear, which is worst of all — desires
which were baffled, and yet went on — on — aching
for ever.' Again the mother spread out her hands
to her child and her breath choked.
* I could bear all that,' said the girl, steadily, ' I
would not be without it. If it was a good thing I
had wanted and might not have ! '
* It is pain, Xannie. To some people too much
to bear.' Xannie thought of Alick ; and was
' There are other things,' continued Emma : ' to
be despised ' The girl started, and trembled,
and awaked from her reverie. She had more to
think of than just her two lovers ; for one of whom
222 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
her heart ached, while the other's ached for her !
Her eyes sought the sorrowing face of the woman
who loved her ; and for a moment Nannie was
cruel, and for a moment she wreaked vengeance
for her grief upon one who was guiltless of it
and who would have shed her life-blood for her
'And disgraced?' said Nannie, bitterly. Mrs.
Bryant felt the keen blade of a knife enter into her
soul, as the girl asked this meaning question in her
clear, soft voice ; the voice of a sinless angel — it
seemed, of an unloving judge.
' Mary ! Mary ! ' said Emma, and buried her
face in her hands, unable to bear the condemnation
of her child. And Nannie understood that this was
her mother. The moment for which poor Emma
had long waited was come at last.
'Who was it?' said the girl, later. 'Who was
my father ? '
' Did he not tell you that ? Did he not tell you
' No ; and I did not want to talk to that gentle-
man. I don't like him.'
' You must not ask me who it was, Mary.
You'll be fond of him when you know him,
'How did I get changed into Nannie Eandle V
' I cannot tell you, Mary.' The girl moved away
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST
with a movement of displeasure. Mrs. Bryant had
done it herself, perhaps.
'Aunt Emma, how could you go about deceiving
every one ? And how could you love a wicked man
like that V
' Mary, do you want to break your poor mother's
heart ? If you were older, you would not say such
cruel things. You would know that there is many
a woman has loved a bad man and got into trouble
for him I'
' And when you had a child — a child ! oh, think
what a serious thing a child is ! How could you
have pretended you hadn't, and tried to get rid
' Oh, my darling ! my dearest ! I know you are
right. And that was indeed the dreadful sin, and
all my trouble has been punishment ! ' Had the
girl been sympathetic, Mrs. Bryant would have
poured the whole story out in so far as she knew it ;
Mr. Kane had quickly drawn it from her. But
before this severe young judge she could only weep
and feel like a prisoner at the bar, who pleads
guilty, and stammers incompletely trutliful answers.
' How could you do it ?' cried Nannie, misunder-
' Mary — there was Mr. Bryant,' said Emma.
All Nannie gathered was that Mr. Bryant knew
nothing about it.
224 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
'I shall speak to him myself!' cried Nannie,
quivering with indignation.
Emma caught her arm in terror. ' My dear !
my dear 1 don't do that ! You do not know Mr.
Bryant. I have had fearful work with him as it is !
He is angry with me now. If you go and speak to
him, Nannie, you will make him cast me off, I do
really believe. He does not love me like he used. My
dear, my dear, he's all I've got now 1 He has been
a good husband, and I have been a good wife, and if
he got turned against me, I don't know what would
become of me, Nannie! And indeed, dear, you
weren't left to starve. You had a happier home
than ever I could have made you with no brothers
' As if I cared for that when I've been an impostor !
It was just the most cruel thing you could do, to
make me an impostor. No one will love me or honour
me any more when they learn I have been an im-
postor ! And I have given myself airs and gone
about preaching with Alick, and despising people
who lived wickedly, and all the time my mother was
a woman without a husband, and deceitful ! And I
don't know who my father was except that he was
a wicked, wicked liar, who didn't even love my
mother and see she and her baby were taken
' My dear ! my dear ! ' moaned the poor woman.
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 225
• But I won't go on being an impostor ! ' cried
Nannie ; ' I shall go straight away this minute and
tell every one ! '
' Mary ! '
' I am sorry I can't be kinder to you,' said the
girl, bitterly. ' It has all come upon me like a
shock, and on top of all the other things. And you
are a stranger to me and live in a fine house among
ladies and gentlemen, and you have that grand
Miss Bryant to love you ; and how can / love you
all of a sudden, when I begin by hearing such things
of you ? and,' cried Nannie, bursting into tears,
' when I am only a poor girl, only fit to be among
working people, and who knows nothing of the
ways of gentlefolk, and can't ever hope to be a
companion to any one of that sort !'
' My dear ! my dear ! ' repeated Mrs. Bryant,
who had lost the thread and only knew that Nannie
was blaming her. Oh, it was hard, when she loved
the child so, and had wanted her so long !
And at last Nannie reached her home and crept
in at the back door, her poor face white and
VOL. II 34
226 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
scarred, her clothes drenched, her hand tremb-
ling and clenched miserably within its fellow. She
was making her way to her own room when she met
Caroline, — a person who always rubbed her fur the
' Well, I declare ! ' said the elder sister, who still
wore her Sunday best, but spotted and spoiled as if
she had been working in it. ' Here you are at last !
Come now, stir up this mustard ; I have done my
share. Where have you been ? Drinking with
your mother-in-law ? '
' Who is the mustard plaster for, Caroline ? '
Tor father, of course, stupid. Much you care
about your father, going off for the whole day like
this. Come now, where have you been ? '
' I had to go with Alick.'
' Going to try a few stories, are you ? We
know better than that, and you are to be punished
for your goings on, I can tell you. With your
dear Alick, were you ? He has been here looking
' Alick been here ? '
' Oh, you are frightened now, I suppose. Well,
if I were Alick, I shouldn't trouble no more over
such a deceitful girl as you. But there's no ac-
counting for some men's taste. Even Alick couldn't
think you pretty if he saw you now, my dear,' said
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 227
the jealous beauty. ' He left that for you/ ended
Caroline, throwing a bulky envelope at her sister,
inscribed with Alick's upright, narrow, and irregular
but legible writing. 'Don't stop to read it now,
child ; get off those filthy shoes and come down and
make yourself some use.'
' I am not coming down,' said Nannie, angrily ;
' I am a great deal more tired than you. Let me
'You are the most selfish, horrid thing I ever
saw,' said Caroline, the lady of the family, re-
Nannie locked her door, saying to herself, ' I am
sure Lady Katharine or Miss Bryant never spoke
like that ! Even Caroline isn't a lady like them ;
what must I be who never learnt any manners at
.all ? ' Then, sad as she was, she smiled to herself.
' But it was me he liked ; not Caroline.'
The farmer just at this juncture was in the
charge of Joe, the simple and stolid, who was never
frightened at undertaking anything. ' Lord bless
us ! leave him to me,' he had said to the anxious
Patty ; ' I've nursed the cows oftener nor any one.'
So Patty had gone to the hall, where were
assembled her eldest brother and his wife, lately
arrived, and Mr. Bryant.
' Fire away, parson,' said John Eandle, who hated
Mr. Bryant and was inclined to be insolent, ' and
228 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
use plain English if you can ; we ain't Hebrew
scholars.' Mr. Bryant did not relish his tone.
' I suppose you know/ he said, slowly, ' that I
have been anxious about your sister for some time ? '
' Much obliged, I am sure. Ain't there some-
thing in the Articles, parson, about works of super-
' Mr. Bryant, you never told us ! ' said Patty,
' My wife did, I think ? No ? She has taken a
fancy to your sister, poor girl.'
' Poor girl ? poor girl ? Hebrew again, sir ?
Pretty girl, I call her.'
' John, hold your tongue,' said his wife. ' Would
the gentleman kindly tell us what has happened to
Nannie ? '
' Oh dear ! oh dear ! ' ejaculated Patty.
Mr. Bryant addressed Mrs. John. He shook his
head. ' I am very, very much afraid that her in-
timacy with, her betrothal to — '
' Keeping company with,' suggested John.
' — that young man Alick has been a mere
blind to us all. He is much to be pitied, for I
believe he has not a suspicion '
' Oh, d — n it ! Let the hunchback look after
himself. You ain't sorry for him a bit, parson, for
you've been abusing him this half hour. Get on to
the point, do.'
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 229
' John, don't be saucy/ said his wife.
' The point is disagreeable to me/ said the clergy-
man, ' not only on your sister's account I hope, I
lioj^e she will prove to have been a mere vain and
thoughtless child ; but on account of one whom, till
this melancholy infatuation overtook him, I was
pleased to call my friend, my '
'Your son-in-law maybe? We needn't name
the gent if it hurts your feelings. We can all guess
at him. He's been carrying on with Nannie, has he ? '
' La, John, you are coarse ! ' sobbed Patty, and
John threatened to send the women out of the room.
Mr. Bryant went on in his measured tones —
' I have this evening received a communication
from Lady Katharine Leicester, which I fear explains
part of your unhappy sister's absence this afternoon,
and which, I regret to say, confirms my worst
anxieties. Shall I read it to you ? ' John snatched
the document from the offended clergyman and
backed towards his wife. Then he began to read
the letter aloud, occasionally interrupting himself to
'My deae Mr. Bryant — Your sweet Georgina
is kindly staying with me to comfort me in my
anxiety, and I may tell you in confidence that I
perceived with the greatest rehef and satisfaction
my dearest boy's rapture upon seeing her with me
230 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
and solicitous about him. I do trust and pray most
earnestly that all may yet be well with them both, and
that this slight accident of V — 's may have the
effect of ending their miserable estrangement. But for
this end something must be done at once, about '
John read the rest of the letter to himself, twice,
whistling now and then. Mrs. John, however, felt
his hand trembling on the back of her chair, and
knew that he was really in considerable agitation.
' John, for mercy's sake, tell us what it is ! '
said Patty, in an agony. He still whistled for a few
moments. Then he put the letter in his pocket.
' Females are fidgets,' he said, ' and her ladyship
puts in too many words. There's all I've got to
say. Now I'm going to have a pipe and to look
round the place. Good night, parson. I hope you'll
get your precious son-in-law. He seems a good
sort, and popular with the women,' ended John ; and
sent Patty back to her father, remarking that in his
opinion the Governor was in a bad way. Then he
called his wife to him outside the door. 'You go
and do up your traps, missus,' he said, ' and set
Caroline or some one to do up the girl's. For off
you two go, back to Faverton to-night ; and if you
don't hold her tight and keep her safe till I come to
you, you'll catch it.'
' It's serious then, John ? '
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 231
* Can't say ; but she don't stay here. Do you
understand now ? I must remain to look after the
Gov., and to see what I can make of Humpy, and
maybe to give a bit of cheek to H.E.H. if I get a
candid opportunity. Go away now.'
Then Mr. John, alone with Mr. Bryant, changed
his tone and asked seriously —
' Come now, sir, if I send my sister away I must
know the truth, and whether she's to be allowed
back after she's tired tearing her hair. How far has
this matter gone ? ' Mr. Bryant reflected. To be
rid of Nannie was his darling wish. He shook his
* In another place, with other surroundings,' he
said, sadly, ' she may retrieve herself, but here '
Alice's letter : 'You will not see me, Nannie ?
Because for one five minutes, for the first time after
all these years of our love, when I was in a state of
spiritual misery such as you have no guess of, — I did
what I should not have done, and said words in my
passion to fright you, and forgot my promise and
kissed you, lassie, against your will. And now you
have cast me away and will not see me. Nannie,
you are unjust and you are cruel. Did not that
232 MR. Bryant's mistake
other man kiss you without leave and you forgave
him, though he had no right to be your lover, lass ?
Thou shouldst not have a face so fit for kissing,
Xannie, if it is such a crime in one as loves thee.
* Oh, lassie, lassie ! if you could know the pain 1
am suffering, you would forgive me what I did.
Dost thou know that God used to speak to me, and
now He speaks no more ? I used to hear His voice,
and now I hear the voices of devils. And some-
times I do not know if it is His voice or the voice
of a devil. Would it not break your heart, Nannie,
to fall so low as that ? It was Satan bid me read
to the people astead of preaching, and I did it. It
was God who bid me heal yon dying man with an
earthly means, and I refused and the man died.
And when the morning came — oh, Nannie, if I
could tell the sorrow that I sorrowed then ! For it
seemed as if the day of judgment was come, and the
people were gathering to see the Lord judge between
the false prophet and the true. Yet I did not feel the
Lord's guiding hand, Nannie, as I had felt it in
times past ; and I did not hear His voice, and I felt
as if the Lord had brought me to the Judgment Bar
and had promised to be my Advocate, but had not
come, and had left me to plead for myself. Till at
the last I looked up and I saw the danger in the
archway, and I knew that the rocks were rending,
and that at a breath the whole church might topple
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 233
and fall. And I thought He said to me, " Oh thou
of little faith, behold I am with thee to fulfil thy
word that all men may know that thou art My
servant." But, Nannie, it was Satan who spoke to me,
and I thought it was the voice of God I And what
the Lord meant was that I should up and give the
people warning. He was trying me to see if I would
obey Him ; and I did not. And when the parson
said I had sinned, I could not contradict him. But
I have told you, lassie, what none other but God
will ever know, how it all came about.
'Do you understand now how my heart was like to
break with misery when I was there on the cliff
with you ? and you were sharp and unkind to me,
and did talk of thy other lover, who has no right to
thee, till I w^as nigh mad with jealousy, and love of
thee, and reckless what ill things I did now I was a
castaway from God. And now, lassie, I have gone
forth and I know not what will come to me, and if I
can keep right at all without God to guide me. And
I have no comfort and no hope and no good. But if
you would forgive me, lassie, and iiyou would help me,
I think there might be hope and work for thy poor
Alick yet, caring for thee ! And I would know that
though by reason of my sin the Lord will not have
me for His prophet no more, yet He has pardoned
me, and is smiling on me still, and has a favour to
me, because He has given me my dear love. But if
234 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
thou wilt not, if I have sinned too bad for even thet
to forgive me, then I am afeard to look to the future
at all, for it is all black and smoke-filled, with big
red clouds clashing together, and streaks of fire and
rolls of thunder, and trouble in the roaring of the
sea. Oh, lassie, let me speak with thee — to-day —
to-morrow — speak with me, Nannie, my own — my
Nannie — I have none left but only thee.'
Alick had written that letter in the hall of the
Farm, whither he had come seeking Nannie. But he
had found only Caroline. She was not a person of
discrimination, and she saw nothing very different
about him from usual. She just thought him
boorish. He was uncivil not to believe her when
she declared that Nannie was out.
' Well,' said Caroline, * I can't help it. I wish
you'd go away. There, write your message for the
child, and I'll give it to her when she comes in.
Will that do you?' She pushed the inkstand at
him and left him ; and Alick began a word or two,
which expanded into a long letter. He was unused
to writing, but expression of no sort was difficult to
him, and the pen flew. The writing was crooked
and blurred with his excitement, but the meaning
was plain enough.
Joe lounged in, a straw in his mouth and with his
usual air of good-humoured simplicity. He had not
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 235
the smallest veneration for Alick. It would be
rash to say that Joe venerated any one. He regarded
his cousin as some quaint performing animal, whose
cleverness calls for wonder at the very time you are
best convinced of his inferiority. And Joe, who
took two hours to write a letter of four lines, could
not conceive, even when he scratched his head for
assistance, what the dickens that scribbling chap
was doing so busily.
' I say,' said Joe, nudging Alick's arm, and rather
frightened himself by the start the man gave on
being roused from his absorption, ' if I were you,
I'd cut. The parson's coming up and he's going to
summons you for pulling his church down.' Alick
stared stupidly at Joe, for his thoughts were all
' Summons ? ' he repeated, vaguely.
*Ay. Shut you up.' Joe burst out laughing
at the look of terror that flashed over Alick's worn
' In the — the ' he stammered ; but could not
get out the word. ' Shut up ' had come to have
only one meaning for Alick.
' My word, ain't you a coward though ! I'd cut
if I were you, but I wouldn't look so scared,' laughed
Joe, ' whether I'd done it or not.'
Alick folded his letter and directed it to Nannie,
with a hurry that defeated its own object. Then
236 AIR. Bryant's MISTAKE
he went to the door ; then returned and opened his
letter, and added, this time in very irregular writing —
' I am going to hide ; but at six in the morning
I'll look for thee in the summer-house. For God's
sake, Nannie, have mercy on me, and don't give me
over to the devil. That's what it comes to.'
Then again he shut the letter with quaking
fingers. He stood over the fire with it for some
time. It seemed as if he were going to burn it.
Joe watched him with amused curiosity.
' I see parson coming along,' said Joe.
Alick dropped the letter on the table and went
out hurriedly. Joe roared with laughter. ' I think
that chap's got a maggot in his head,' he said again
Alick did not return home that night. Mrs.
Leach was anxious but said nothing, for Alick had
stayed away for a night sometimes before.
At dawn the birds saw a starved, hunted-looking
creature creep slowly along to Nannie's summer-house.
He looked about him as if dreading an enemy con-
cealed somewhere. He lay down near the door of
the arbour and waited. He was hungry, and
chewed the rose leaves impatiently. Now and then
he smiled to himself ' She will come,' he said ; for
Nannie was one who never failed a trust.
After a long time, when the sun was getting
high in the heavens, he raised himself on his elbow
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 237
and began to wonder why she tarried. He became
aware that it was long past the appointed hour.
He rose and moved to the arbour slowly. ' She
must have been there all the time/ he said. He
looked in. Then with a yell he started back, and
fled down the garden, leaping over the low hedge
out into the fields, away over the moor.
'Nothing there but the devil,' he shrieked as he fled.
Xo one saw hmi. .
Nannie was moved long before she had finished
reading Alick's letter. She understood him so well,
and knew that every word had come from the depths
of his stricken soul. Xot of the stern sane stuff neces-
sary for reformers and martyrs was this poor ^'illage
fanatic made. And Xannie, who understood him,
discerned this. ' It will drive him wild,' she said
to herself; 'some would call him wild already.
Oh, poor dear Alick ! I thought him wild this
morning myself Oh, why does he love me so,'
cried Xannie, ' when I have no love for him ! '
' I must do something,' her soliloquy went on ; 'I
will save him if I can. To-morrow early I will
meet him. I will comfort him. I will make him
listen to reason. He will hear me as he heard
238 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
when I talked to him about that poor man's death ;
I will take him to Mr. Bryant, and make him under-
stand that Alick is not a hypocrite. I w^ill tell Sir
Vincent all about him, and he will help him.'
Just then Nannie was startled by the steps of
two or three persons coming up her little stair.
She recognised Caroline's voice, but who could the
other people be ? It sounded like John ; but he
was at Faverton, wasn't he ? ' Oh, I do hope poor
father is not very ill ! ' thought Nannie for the first
time. ' He must be, if they have sent for John !
Why are they coming to me ? ' Nannie was so
frightened that she flung her door open before the
invaders reached it, and cried distractedly, ' Oh,
what is the matter ? Has he sent for me ? Has
he heard anything ? ' But as John tried to kiss
her Nannie reddened and turned away, saying to
herself bitterly, ' He is not my brother. I have no
brother and no sister and no father any more.
They will hate me when they know. Father hates
John sent the women away and shut the door
upon them ; then threw himself upon Nannie's
one little chair and stared at her : insolently, she
fancied, though his thoughts of her were by no
means unkind ones. Nannie stood defiantly before
him, and for a long time there was silence.
At last she spoke. ' I think you are very rude.
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 239
John, coming into my room this way when I'm
dressing, and taking my chair so that I have to
stand. What do you want ? '
' I won't go out of my way to discuss manners
with you,' replied John ; ' mine are farmhouse ones
and mayn't be the choicest in the world ; but I
know this much, they are the best for me and for
you. Come now, my girl, the Gov. is laid up, and
like to be so for a long time, I'm afraid, and that
is why I have taken the law into my own hands.
You'll just do as I bid you without a fuss.'
' What do you want ? '
' I want this, Nan, and mean to have it too.
You just dress yourself and come down quietly and
eat a bit of supper, and then away you and Maria
bustle by the 9.30 from Tanswick to my house at
' Oh, I can't go. I have things to do at home.
Let Maria take Caroline.'
' Maria is going to look after you. It's you, my
young friend, we want to get out of the house to-
night. There has been some mistake in your bring-
ing up, it seems, and Patty's had enough of you.
Come now, take it easy. We aren't going to be
hard upon you, but out you must go.'
' John ! John ! ' exclaimed ISTannie, passionately,
' have you heard about me then ? I meant to tell
father myself 1 Don't turn me out like a vagabond,
240 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
John ! ' The young man started and seized her
arm. Was this a confession ? He stared at her,
and Nannie's colour changed from pale to scarlet
and back to white again.
' Is it true then, child ? Good God ! '
' Don't turn me out like a vagabond, John,' re-
peated Nannie. 'It wasn't my fault ! I will go;
but don't hunt me away to-night ! Can't you bear
me one day more for old time's sake ? ' pleaded
Nannie, easily agitated in her weakness. John
dropped her wrist and sank back in the chair. His
heart had died within him. He had a great affec-
tion for this sister of his.
' I will put a bullet in that villain,' he said to
' Nan, I promise we'll do the best we can for
you. We won't be hard on you, my girl. I ain't
come up to row you to-night anyhow. That'll mend
nothing. But for father's sake, you must do as I
bid you. I don't want his deathbed made uneasy
by any disgrace, and the safest way to have no
more of that is to get you away this moment.
Come now,' impatiently, ' don't be an obstinate baby
and haggle over three farthings, when the difference
in our accounts is a thousand pounds.' Nannie
was overwhelmed by finding the mistake in her
parentage viewed in such a very serious light. Now
they were slipping from her, she felt a great clinging
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 241
affection for these homely, yet pretentious people
whose ways had often irritated her.
' John, did you say his deathbed ? ' she said,
with quivering lips, her eyes raised pleadingly to
her brother's. He nodded.
* He'll never get up again, poor old Governor,'
said he ; and then his feelings, getting the better
of him, he exclaimed, angrily, ' It'll finish him off
when he learns how you have served liim, miss.'
* Oh, John, you are unkind ! ' cried Nannie, ' when
it was none of my doing, and I have all the suf-
fering ! '
' If you are going to take that tone, and hold
yourself up to pity — well, come, that's neither
here nor there, to-night anyhow. And as it is all
his fault in your opinion, you hussy, you'll be
pleased to hear I mean to have it out with him,
d — d scoundrel, and make him smart for it
too.' And then John bit his Lip and muttered
under his breath, ' A confounded stupid thing that
is to say to her.'
' What are you talking about ? ' exclaimed
Nannie, suddenly, starting back from him, flushed
and panting, her eyes dilating. ' A scoundrel ?
Who is a scoundrel ? '
' Don't be a fool, Nan. Don't bandy words
with me. The sooner you confess he's a scoundrel,
the better. Go and dress.'
VOL. II 35
242 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
'I won't dress. I must know what you mean/
said N"annie, shaking his sleeve. John looked at
her and felt a revival of hope.
' What were you talking about ? ' he asked,
roughly drawing her to him.
' About Aunt Emma ! About my not being
your own sister ! Oh, John, I didn't think you'd
want to turn me out all of a minute for
that ! '
' I can't attend to that sort of infernal nonsense
now,' said John. ' I want to know about Sir Vin-
cent Leicester ! '
' What about Sir Vincent Leicester ? ' said
Nannie, throwing up her head.
' What have you to do with Sir Vincent Lei-
cester ? '
' Nothing ! There ! ' cried Nannie, shaking his
hand off, and standing before him with scarlet cheeks
and blazing eyes.
' Nothing ? Do you mean to lie then, miss ? '
' I never lied in my life ! ' said Nannie.
' I am a fool to lose my temper,' he said to him-
self, and addressed her more quietly. ' You were
for confessing a minute ago, Nan. And we have
other information. Be careful now. Do you deny
that that bla — , that man has made love to
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 243
Nannie sickened under this manner of question.
Wliat a distance must be between her and Sir
Vincent when their love seemed necessarily to
every one dishonest love ! She answered firmly,
meeting her brother's eye, ' Sir Vincent has never
said one word to me as wasn't right — not one w^ord
as couldn't be repeated to you or to any one. Yes,
John, in the sense that you mean, I do deny that he
has made love to me.'
' I won't have it in any sense,' said John. ' But
come now, Xan, I breathe freer. You Q;ave me a
fine fright, you did. Though I couldn't believe my
own ears that you had gone astray.' He put his
hands on her shoulders and kissed her aftection-
ately. ' You must forsjive me if I was too hot,
Nannie. You put me on the WTong scent somehow,
and I say I was in a blue funk.'
' You are very kind, John,' said Xannie, with a
lump in her throat.
' That's a good lass. AVe'll have the details
another time. Now I'll go and see for your supper
and you make haste and get ready for the
' Oh, John,' said Xannie, ' I am very sorry to
annoy .you, but I cannot go to-night. You mustn't
' Why not ? '
' I — I'm tired.'
244 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
' Can't help that.' They were silent for a few
minutes, looking at each other.
' You have an appointment for to-morrow, may-
be ? '
' Very good. I will keep it for you. Tell me
the time and place. I shall have great pleasure in
meeting that most virtuous young gentleman for
' John, you are insulting. It is not with him.
I don't have appointments with him. I mean — not
' Not now, indeed ! AYho is it with, pray ? '
' Alick ? ' John blew a long whistle. ' I don't
believe it. You are trying to take me in. I see
through you, miss.'
' I have told you the simple truth.'
'Alick Eandle, you say? Now look here,
Nannie, I am beginning to distrust you altogether.
Do you mean to say you are carrying on with both
these men at once ? '
' I am not carrying on with anybody. I don't
know what it means.'
' You seem to think me a fool, my dear,. Are
you engaged to Alick Handle ? '
' Certainly not.'
' Have you any engagement with t'other chap ? '
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 245
* No.' Nannie reddened. She felt the little ring
burning her throat. But yes, she was speaking the
truth ; only not the whole truth. That was her pro-
perty; why should she allow any one to steal it ?
' With any one ? '
' Then you sha'n't be making secret appointments
with young men. You shall go to Faverton.'
' John, I have had a letter from Alick. I must
' Show me the letter.' She obeyed.
' You are a nice girl to be having letters in that
vein from Alick, while you are making appointments
— not now of course — with Sir Vincent Leicester.'
' Alick knows about Sir Vincent'
' Indeed. Then he is not a proper companion
for you. This is waste of time, miss. You go to
' John, I will come to-morrow at eleven ; at ten
if you wish. There is no necessity for me to go
' There is necessity, because we are simple people
not up to dodges. You may be meditating an
elopement with your sweetheart to-night, my dear.
Your refusal to go means something, and I intend
to have my own way.'
' I give you my word I only want to see Alick.
I am frightened about Alick. I '
246 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
' I don't choose you to see Alick in this way. You
have made me suspicious of him. I won't have you
compromising yourself with him or with any one.'
' Compromising myself ? '
' Yes. I'll tell you this much about Alick. I
understand he wishes to marry you ? '
' Yes, John, but '
'Very well. If you go meeting him in private
places at uncommon hours on secret business, you'll
have to marry him whether you wish it or not. Are
you prepared for that ? '
' I am not going to marry Alick.'
' Then you go to Faverton to-night.' He left her,
turning the key on the outside.
Nannie's pride rose at this, and she opened the
window and actually considered the possibility of
jumping out. It was far too high.
' Besides, there is no good in being naughty I she
said to herself. ' Oh dear ! John is like father ! —
so very obstinate. I suppose I must go. But oh,
what will my lover think of me to run away like
this, without one word of any sort to him, or waiting
to see if he wishes to speak to me ! ' She moved
about dressing herself; presently sat down and
wrote to her cousin.
' My pooe dear Alick ! — Of course I forgive you.
I only wish I could do all you want. / cant, but I
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 247
will help you all I can. I was determined to come
to you to-morrow morning as you ask, but John won't
let me. He has carried me off. You had better tell
him as much as you can, and Sir Vincent too, and
then come and speak to me at Faverton. — Xaxxie.
' Dear Alick, don't despair. God is always good
even when we aren't. I want to see you so.'
* Well, well ! ' cried Patty and Maria, as John
came down, having resumed his jaunty air. He
described jokingly his contest with iSTannie.
' Do you mean there is nothing ? ' cried Patty ;
' I thought not. I couldn't believe it of Nan.'
John shrugged his shoulders.
' There is something. But as far as I can make
out, not enough yet to make a regular row about.
She don't come back here again, that's all. You
must worm the truth out of her, Mrs. Pi '
' He can follow her to Faverton ! ' said Patty.
' He can't do it to-day, anyhow, and she needn't
stay at Faverton. But he won't follow her. Out
of sight, out of mind, you know.'
' I didn't find I got rid of you that way, John,'
said Mrs. Maria.
248 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
'Because I was myself/ said the husband, com-
placently, 'and this chap, you'll find, is himself
Easy pleased and good at forgetting. That's the
characteristic of swells according to my experience.
That was Sir Charles all over, in more than his
sweetheartings which came about before my time.'
' But I don't think Sir Vincent is like that,' said
Patty ; ' father always says he forgets nothing.'
' I'll bet you a thousand pounds I teach him to
forget Nannie,' said John. Maria suggested that
if no more were in it than this, the journey might
be deferred ; but her husband was inexorable, and
alluded to Alick.
' She's entangled pretty fast there, I suspect. I
never took to that hunchy for a pretty girl like her.'
' Nor I,' said the lamentable Patty again, ' and
she always says she don't want him. Father's
been putting his foot in it, driving her too hard.
But that Alick seems to have some hold over her
too. I've told father times and times they weren't
keeping company in a proper way, and he wouldn't
see it. It's time it was put a stop to. I've always
had my doubts about preachers,' said Patty ; ' they
never seem countable like respectable men.'
' Seems to me,' interposed Joe, ' that Alick's put
himself out of the running by losing his wits. He
looked downright silly this afternoon.'
' Had a glass of beer maybe,' said John. ' Joe's
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 249
blue ribbon prevents his knowing what a glass of
beer looks like, or the man who has swallowed it.
Give me some, old lady,' to his sister ; ' I shall want
strength to carry the rebellions woman to the train.'
Presently he and his wife went upstairs for
Xannie. She was ready, making no further objec-
tion. She handed her brother the note for Alick.
' You'll give it to him, John ? You'll go out at six
and give it to him and talk to him ? '
' I'll talk to him,' said the brother, taking the
note. ' I shall read it, Nan.'
' If you must I can't help it. But promise to
give it yourself, John.' He winked at his wife and
promised. Much relieved by the girl's submission,
John was jocular as they drove along.
' Maria's the girl for a pattern,' he said ; 'I've
heard folk say I'm henpecked. Well, I admit I let
her get the tickets, while I sit on the boxes. She
spares me the trouble. It depends on the hen. If
it's a good hen, a peck is a pleasure ; ain't it, Mrs.
E ? Don't I say so whenever you draw blood,
my girl ? '
Nannie heard one word in ten. She was wishing
she could explain her fears about Alick to her
brother. John belonged to the class of persons who
are sceptical as to anything being in the least
unusual, particularly when reported by a woman.
' Mares' nests aren't in my line,' he would say, con-
250 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
temptuously, and it required to know John well
before you were sure that he did not apply the
epithet indiscriminately. Nannie was afraid to
suggest her fears about Alick. Her brother would
only sneer at him for a Methody.
' I should have to tell him exactly what hap-
pened to make him believe there was anything in
it,' said IsTannie, her cheeks burning at the very idea
of confessing to Alick's unwelcome kisses, ' and then
he would think too much of it. He would think
badly of him and very likely of me too. And
after all I think now perhaps I was too frightened
and am exaggerating. Alick lost his temper —
just rather worse than usual, because he was
upset by the accident ; and so was I upset, and I
worried Alick, and then I got into a fright. Oh,
it would be cruel to tell all that of Alick to people
who don't understand him.' So she only repeated,
' Do, please, John, be very sure to see Alick, and
to notice him as much as you can. Indeed, I have
a reason.' They were the first words she had
spoken ; but John thought he might speak to her
' What was that rubbish you were talking, Nan,
about — I swear I don't know what it was about ! '
Nannie changed colour and was silent. Oh, why
was Fate so unkind to her ! ' You had better not
talk that fashion to other folk, if you have a right
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 251
to a character. Come now, no more cross purposes.
Out with it.' Poor Nannie tried to answer.
' I meant to tell father first. Oh, John, it is
such a dreadful thing ! ' She got it out at last, poor
child, with the bitter cry of one opening the flood-
gates to desolation. ' I am not your sister at all !
I am ^lary Smith ! '
' Who the devil has told you such nonsense ? ' said
John, with a fine show of scepticism. But he raked
up a number of trifles in his memory with an in-
stinctive feeling that this was not at once to be
labelled a mare's nest. Nannie had to describe how
she acquired the information.
' A gentleman up at the Heights told me first.
He ' John took her wrist and held it slightly
twisted with a pressure which hurt her.
'Now look here, Nan. From this day forward
you have nothing to do with any gentleman up at
the Heights, nor with any gentleman whatever.
You seem to have been under some delusion about
your place, my good girl.'
Nannie took her hand away, disdaining to notice
the hurt either to her wrist or to her dignity. She
told all she knew, and about Mrs. Bryant also, with
sorrow and bitterness. ' Oh, John, John, don't be
angry with me ! It isn't my fault, and I never knew
till to-day. Don't be angry with me ! ' She wept.
' My eye ! ' said John, ' quench the waterworks
252 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
then. I don't believe a word of it, for my part.
Don't you go spreading the story now until I've
ascertained if there is anything in it.'
' Oh, do you think perhaps it isn't true ? ' said
Nannie, with reviving hope.
John Eandle was made of sterling stuff, but
delicacy of speech or sentiment was not in his line.
' Cheer up, Nan,' he said. ' I sha'n't believe it
without I'm forced to. But if that sort of business
runs in the blood, you have the more need of a
brother to lock you up, miss. Lord, now what
humbugs some folks are ! Mrs. Bryant ! I tell you
what, there'll be a jolly row if the upper crust find
'It looks to me uncommonly as if they knew
more about it this time than we,' said Maria sig-
nificantly, pointing to the weeping girl's delicately
shaped hand nestled pleadingly into his. ' Tell us
more about the gentleman, Nan.'
' No, no, don't put that into her head,' interrupted
the husband quickly. ' Nan, don't cry like a baby.
It shall make no difference to you anyhow. If there
is anything in it at all, take my word for it, the
Governor knows all about it. If he adopted you for
his daughter. Nan, I guess it ain't for me to interfere
' It's the most wicked conduct I ever heard of ! '
EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 253
John shrugged his shoulders. ' I don't know —
under some circumstances. But look here, Nannie.
It's not the kind of job I should fancy doing for my
sister, so look out you never get into the position to
' If ever I am in such a position, you can re-
member I am not your sister,' said JSTannie, haughtily.
' Hullo ! Here's the train. You are my sister,
Nan, to all intents and purposes, and I shall treat
you as such anyway, whether you disgrace us all or
not. You must remember that, my dear, whatever
trouble you get into.' John spoke with emphasis
and Nannie was touched.
' Oh, John, you are very kind to me. But it
hurts me to have you think I ever could disgrace
you. You may trust me, for I could not bear to
disgrace myself, no — nor him,' said Nannie, softly.
Both John and his wife thought it very im-
proper of her to allude to him at all. But for the
present their game was truce.
'The cause of your anxiety/ wrote Mr. Bryant to
Lady Katharine, ' has been removed from EverwelL'
The letter was about Xannie — a young woman who
from the first had inspired him ' with a grave dis-
trust ' — and about Alick, whose flight left no doubt
on the clerg}^man's mind 'that Sunday's catastrophe
was largely of his contrivance.' There were also a
few words of Georgina, who had gone with Mrs.
Bryant to Scarborough for a week. ' The dear child
was most anxious that her impulsive conduct on
Sunday afternoon should not be misunderstood.'
Mr. Bryant did not send the letter without hesi-
tation. There were sentences in it which he was
aware would create a bad impression if ever ' the
whole truth came to light.' But he had at present
no reason to suppose that the whole truth would
ever come to light, for fortune favoured him, and
his foes were disappearing. Ben Eandle was on
his deathbed ; Emma was foolish but docile ; Ann
Leach had informed him that she had heart-disease,
VOL. II 36
258 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
and might pop off at any moment. Though it was
only in her cups that Mrs. Leach forgot which side
her bread was buttered, and she had signed the
pledge, Mr. Bryant felt a great wish that she would
pop off; for living over even an extinct volcano is
alarming. 'When we know where her son is/ re-
flected the clergyman, ' she shall be induced to join
him. Shall I be thought ill of for ousting all these
my relations-in-law ? No, because I have really not
ousted them, and for a man in my position to feel
a little gi,ne at their propinquity is neither unnatural
nor ungentlemanly. My chief difficulty at this
moment is with Vincent. I fear Georgie has tried
altogether too high a hand with him.' Mr. Bryant
sighed. He was selecting hymns for Sunday, and
his eye fell on this, one of the gems embedded in
the gravel of most modern collections —
What peaceful hours I once enjoyed !
How sweet their memory still !
But they have left an aching void
The world can never fill.
Return, holy Dove ! return,
Sweet messenger of rest !
I hate the sins that made Thee mourn,
And drove Thee from my breast.
He sighed, hastily turning the leaves to a hymn
h less meaning.
Lady Katharine, a few days later, reading Mr.
DOUBTING CASTLE 259
Bryant's letter to her son, naturally omitted the
part concerning Xannie. Vincent was up and about
again, but with a sprain and an inclination to
silence. His mother was taking great delight in
coddling him. ' A\Tiat's all the rest of the letter ? '
he asked, bluntly ; and Lady Katharine stupidly
coloured, and said vaguely, it was about a — a young
person in the \illage, in whom Mr. Bryant took an
interest. Vincent remained a long time in what had,
during these few days, become a habitual attitude
with him ; his hands behind his head, and thought-
ful eyes fixed vacantly on the distant horizon line
of the purple sea. His anxious mother would have
given the world to be sure what he was thinking
about. She hoped it was Georgina ; but felt nearly
stifled by a dread that it might be Nannie.
At the present moment Vincent was thinking
of Alick. His compassion was stirred on the fallen
prophet's behalf. For Alick's sake, scarcely less
than for his own and Nannie's, Vincent was resolved
to end his own undecided relation to the girl the
very first moment he could get an opportunity of
speaking to her. For it was horrible to feel that
Nannie was dealing unfairly with any one, and
Vincent did feel it. She was allowing two men,
each in his own way, to make love to her at once ;
and she was encouraging them both. Since his last
talk with Nannie, Vincent had spoken to Alick, and
26o MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
he saw that the prophet, confident of winning
the girl, was staking his very all on success,
and was quite unaware that Nannie was accepting
kisses from his rival. Vincent had not, of course,
enlightened him ; he felt, even a little indignantly,
that Nannie must do so, and the sooner the better.
But a fortnight had passed since the lovers had had
opportunity of speech together, and Vincent could
not but think, and with sinking of the heart, that
their next conference would not find them exactly
in the same position to each other as their last
' But at any rate,' said Vincent, ' we will be
honest with ourselves and with each other, and with
other people. Nannie must make her decision.'
No wonder his look was often troubled as he gazed
vacantly at the sea.
However, at this moment his thoughts were
chiefly of Alick, and compassionate ones. ' In
the first place,' he said, slowly, 'it is not the
case that Alick confessed, and I do not believe he
had one thing to do with the accident. He never
set up to be a Samson. It is most uncalled for
in Bryant to circulate such an accusation.'
' I cannot help thinking, dear,' replied Lady
Katharine, ' that you have grown lately a little
captious about Mr. Bryant.' Gaining no denial, she
improved the occasion. ' Dear Mr. Bryant's most
ill-judged marriage has prejudiced you against him.'
DOUBTING CASTLE 261
' Not at all; said Vincent, sulkily ; he had begun
to dislike speaking of the clergyman.
'I have learned a few particulars about his
marriage. It is a warning, I am sure, to any one
against being taken in by — a pretty face and that
kind of thing.' Vincent's eyes came down from the
horizon to his mother's countenance. He fancied
that he had detected an allusion. 'Mr. Bryant's
future wife was governess or something in a family
of position when he, the curate, fell in love with
her. It seems she was a widow ; very young ;
pathetic she would appear to a young man like
Mr. Bryant, widowed also.' Lady Katharine sighed
and paused, remembering her own widowhood.
' Yes, it would be pathetic of course. He had no
conception, I gather, of what very humble origin
this Mrs. Grant was, till he had engaged himself
too far to draw back. At least, I suppose he
thought so then.
'Who told you all this, mother ?'
'Dearest Georgina. I admit I questioned her,
sweet girl.' Vincent's eyes went back to the purple
'You shouldn't, my dear mother, discuss these
delicate matters ; for either you'll drive Georgina
into a corner where she'll be drawing on her im-
agination for her facts, or you'll be finding out some-
thing you don't want to know ; perhaps, that Bryant
262 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
did not so much marry beneath him in his second
nuptials as above him in his first.'
' My dear boy ! Why, he belongs to the
Bryants of Norfolk ! '
' That is an unproved statement if you like.
Why need we discuss it ? It is of no consequence
to me if he is the son of a reigning prince or of a
railway porter. He's the parson ; that's enough.
And Mrs. Bryant is his wife. I don't care two
straws if she was a governess, or a widow either.
I hadn't gathered the information from Bryant, but
what does it matter ? May I ask, mother, while
we are on this subject, what Georgina Bryant was
doing in this house on Sunday ? ' Lady Katharine,
aware of an indiscretion, answered rather fussily —
' Vincent, love, you were so pleased to see her.'
The son frowned.
' Was I ? I am sorry I gave you that impres-
sion. I did not make out who she was for a long
time ; and when I discovered, I was not pleased at
all. I was excessively annoyed.'
' But, dearest, it was not Georgie's doing. It was
' Then it was curiously ill-judged of you, mother.
It was calculated to suggest to her family, to the
servants, and to the whole place, that Miss Bryant
and I are a great deal more intimate than either of
us intend ever to become.'
DOUBTING CASTLE 263
' I — don't altogether understand your intentions,
dear ; but Georgina *
* I presume my intentions are the ones to be
consulted/ said Vincent.
The timid, conscientious woman was greatly
alarmed. Could he possibly be dreaming of marry-
ing I^annie ! ' My dear son, you must let me
speak. I really do think in making your intentions
you are bound in honour to consider — I cannot
believe you one of those selfish, heartless, vain
young men' (signs of impatience, but she per-
severed) ' who use their admitted right to take the
initiative in these things, quite to the disregard of
a lady's ' Vincent swung his legs off the sofa
and faced his mother alarmingly —
' I am tired of these general truths. We had
better speak plainly. Mother, you seem to think I
am going to marry Miss Bryant. Well, I am not,
as I explained to you already. You can tell her so,
if you aren't afraid of hurting her feelings.'
' Vincent, you — you quite astonish me !' said the
poor lady ; ' you told me yourself that you intended
to marry her.'
' No — I never spoke positively. I did tell you
most distinctly that I had changed my mind.'
Tears filled Lady Katharine's eyes ; but anxiety
would not let her drop the subject. She tried
264 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
' When a young man has deliberately encouraged
a lady to exhibit a preference for himself '
' Pray let us drop the hypothetical young man.
Subsequent to one insane and happily rejected
proposal, at a time when I neither knew Miss
Bryant's character nor had reflected that character
was of importance in a wife, I never encouraged
Georgina to " exhibit " one atom of " preference." '
'Dear Vincent, you may say you have been
misunderstood, but it is unquestionable that you —
gave an impression to a number of persons, and to
dear Georgie herself who is most important of
' Are you sure it was not Georgina who gave the
impression ? ' said Vincent ; but his mother did not
hear, and he restrained himself and kept silence.
' You know, dear, the mere fact of going out of
your way to bring the Bryants here was calculated
to give the impression to any one aware of your
previous attentions. I am certain Georgie thought
so. And then there was cordiality in your manner.
She felt herself justified — I consider she was justified
— in so far exhibiting a preference as to show she
would accept a second offer. I only mean, dear,'
continued the gentle lady, frightened and confused,
'that it is not — the sort of conduct your dear
father would have approved, that you should de-
liberately insult Georgina by directing attention to
DOUBTING CASTLE 265
your admiration for her, in order that you might
publicly withdraw from it.'
' Mother/ said Vincent, ' I would not submit to
such expressions from any one but you, and I must
request you not to repeat them.'
Lady Katharine put her handkerchief to her
eyes, convinced by her son's composed indignation
that she had said quite the wrong thing. It was
the result, she believed, of an endeavour to please him
by plain speaking ; but she was altogether mistaken.
She had said the wrong thing because she was
dealing insincerely, and was endeavouring to gain
her point by arguments that had no force even with
herself. The real argument she was afraid to pro-
duce. There was a brief silence, and Vincent was
moved by her penitence.
'Mother, I will admit that Bryant has not
proved an altogether happy selection, and I will
admit that in the earlier stages of my acquaintance
with Georgina I made mistakes. But we 'mustn't
have any more misunderstandings. You don't want
me to confirm my previous blunders by a greater
and a deliberate one ; and I shall not marry a
woman I do not love, because other people expect
me to do so, or because it is asserted that by with-
drawing my pretensions I am deliberately insulting
a lady with whom I never had one moment's engage-
266 MR. BR Y ant's MISTAKE
'Vincent, dear, I did not mean that !'
' No, I am sure you did not. But do you un-
derstand me now ? As for Georgina, she has no
claim on me for so much as an explanation. Now
we have said enough about that. I want to know
about Alick. Did you say he had fled ? Show me
Bryant's letter.' Vincent had been restive under
rather much nursing, and a supposition that because
he had strained his back, he was unable to eat
butter for breakfast or to read to himself He put
out his hand and took the letter before Lady
Katharine had the presence of mind to stop
' Vincent ! no, no, dear I I — there is something
in it I do not want you to read. Do pray give it
' I beg your pardon, mother.' He returned it at
once, but his eye had unintentionally lighted upon
his own name, and lower down the words, ' Nannie's
misconduct.' He reflected for a moment, frowning ;
and began to see through Lady Katharine's advocacy
of the clergyman's daughter. ' Will you order the
carriage, mother,' he said, ' and come out with me ?
I must learn particulars about Alick, and in the
first instance I shall apply for them to Nannie
BandUl said Vincent, dwelling on the girl's name.
' Vincent, you — you surprise me ! ' stammered
the widow, aghast.
DOUBTING CASTLE 267
' I have other matters upon which to speak to
Nannie also,' he continued.
' But she — she has been sent away. And her
father is dying '
'Who has sent her away?' interrupted the son,
' Nannie Eandle, Vincent ? She has indeed.
Mr. Bryant says so.'
' I must see that letter, mother,' said Vincent,
after a pause.
' Indeed, love, I do not wish it.'
' Is there anything offensive to Miss Eandle iu
' No — 0.' Lady Katharine hesitated.
' Are you sure ? Or to me ? '
' Vincent, by your questions you admit that '
' I understand enough of the contents of that
letter to beg you to burn it, mother; now, in my
presence. Miss Handle's name is not to be con-
nected with mine, until she and I have given our
consent. You can form your own inferences,
mother ; but you had better take care, for I shall
not easily forgive you, if I find you have formed
Vincent stood by the window, thinking gloomily
that here was a fresh shadow fallen over the
sunshine of his love. Presently he became aware
that his dear mother was in tears ; the reason
268 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
was not far to seek. He knelt by her chair and
put his arm round her, to her unspeakable consola-
* Mother, the time has perhaps come when, in
Nannie's interest, explanation is advisable. But I
must see her first. This evening, to-morrow, within
a day or two, you shall, I promise you, learn all.
Till then, dear mother, I must ask from you silence,
and especially to other people. Will you remember
one thing,' he went on, speaking slowly, in a low
tone of deep feeling, * will you remember, my
dearest mother, that I shall never feel anything but
the keenest regret if I have to occasion you dis-
appointment, or at any time the smallest unhappi-
ness ? ' Vincent was an essentially sincere person, as
all who knew him were quick to feel. He so seldom
spoke in the tone of his last sentence that when it
came it was doubly impressive. Lady Katharine
embraced him tearfully, and could venture no re-
monstrance, at least for to-day.
' Oh, if only his dear father were alive ! ' mourned
the helpless widow, wringing her hands.
Vincent hurried to the Farm, cursing his week's
captivity, when dear Nannie was in difficulties.
DOUBTING CASTLE 269
' Oh, my sweet darling ! ' he said to himself, ' why
did she not call me ? Perhaps she did. Perhaps
she did ! and these busybodies would not allow me
to hear her. The cowards ! to fall upon tier I I
am certain Bryant is at the bottom of it. He has
made a tool of my rhother. Well, I must leave
no stone unturned to set Nannie right at once.
Even if I have lost her ! Good heavens ! what a
thought ! I will not exist another day without
For Vincent's uneasiness grew apace. It had,
a fortnight ago, been a shock to the lover to find
Nannie accepting a different view from his own
of the possibilities of her relation to Alick, nay,
clinging to it, notwithstanding his emphatically
expressed warning and displeasure. He knew
that Nannie had been daily with her cousin during
the week preceding the accident at the church,
and he had been unable to lay the suspicion
that she was avoiding himself. Was she slipping
away from him ? Would their next meeting be to
say good-bye ? Hateful, intolerable thought ! not
merely because he loved her, and more than of old,
but because he could not contemplate the idea of
parting now without an agitating self-blame. For
he had decoyed Nannie into a degree of * levering '
justifiable only on the grounds that they were
practically betrothed, and it was long since he had
270 MR. Bryant's mistake
himself taken any other view of their relationship.
To be obliged to reopen the question, to admit the
possibility that she might abandon him, was horrible.
To lose her ; to fear that he had harmed her, if
ever so little ; and to feel that though not distinctly
blamable, still the actual Nannie was not precisely
the delicate, scrupulous, and wholly trustworthy
Nannie his imagination had believed — Vincent
could not face the dread possibility. Once in her
presence, his fears would be smiled away.
Yet there was the vague alarm, the undeveloped
remorse in his heart, joined now to a sickening
sense that other people had intervened with their
murdering touch. He hurried to her home, for the
first time openly, — ' to put her right,' even if he had
lost her. ' Heaven forbid it I Oh, my treasure, we
had better never have seen each other than be parted
now ! But no, for my own sake I cannot wish
that,' said Vincent, who was not introspective, nor
prone to serious reflection except as a direct incen-
tive to action, yet who had a dim understanding
that Nannie's lover, as compared with the some-
time admirer of the unprincipled Georgina Bryant,
breathed in a purer atmosphere, and had somehow
unconsciously raised the ideals of his life.
' Well, sir,' said John, ' it's time you did step
forward, for there have been remarks made about
you and Nannie, and it's a question with me if she
DOUBTING CASTLE 271
will ever recover from the mischief you have done
her.' Vincent flushed, for the words fell in all too
well with the train of his own thoughts. He had
reached the Farm at an unfortunate moment, for Mr.
Eandle had died in the early morning, and confusion
and agitation reigned. John, however, looked much
as usual in the rather loud costume which gave the
gentleman an immediate feeling that of all men in
the world he would not have picked out this one for
a brother-in-law. John came promptly to interview
the visitor, and opened the talk with an air of
bluster which marked a fixed determination to
' You will gain nothing by that tone,' said
Vincent very quietly, however ; and John, to his
own surprise, found himself presently talking the
matter over quite calmly, and by force of simple
sincerity on both sides, arriving at a sort of warlike
understanding with the enemy, and even conceiving
an unwilling liking for him, which was not un-
' I cannot think,' said Vincent, ' that you have
acted judiciously in sending Nannie away. She
had far better return at once and face boldly any
gossip or misapprehension which may have arisen.
When it is known that she is to be my wife,
surprise will cease at our having required some
previous intimate acquaintance.'
272 MR. BRYAISfT S MISTAKE
' You take it as a settled thing, sir ? That is
not what my sister told me.'
Vincent's heart beat, and he resisted a strong
temptation to exaggerate his success.
' At least, Mr. Eandle, Nannie's decision can't
be postponed any longer. You see now why I must
speak to her at once.'
' But I don't choose to have any more of this
carrying on,' said John ; ' you may have acted
perfectly square by my sister, sir, but it's a
game there has been enough of. I know my duty
to Nannie, and my duty to you and your family,
too well to help on a match which would bring
you into ridicule and my sister into mortification
and scorn and disappointment.' Vincent was not
enough inspired by this man in the spotted tie, who
had not poor Alick's passionate eloquence, to utter
' I have not come here to argue,' he replied ; ' I
have come to justify Nannie in every way, taking
all the responsibilities of our present position upon
myself. But I wish to inform you of my inten-
tions. I shall see your sister at the earliest
opportunity and learn her decision. Whatever
it is I shall abide by it. Nannie and I have
not carried our intercourse so far that she is
not still at liberty to dismiss me from her ac-
quaintance; but we have gone altogether too
DOUBTING CASTLE 273
far for me to accept dismissal from any one but
' Well, sir/ said John, ' I never was given to
walking into traps with my eyes open. I want the
thing left where it is, and if I can prevent your
seeing Dannie to-day, or any other day, I'll do it.'
And they parted.
Mr. John telegraphed at once to his wife, for he
had seen Vincent talking to j\Iolly, the stupid servant
girl, who knew that Nannie had gone to Faverton.
The telegram said, ' Mind your eye ; and shift
your quarters,' and John was at ease, for he had
arranged with his wife that ISTannie was to receive
no visitors and write no unread letters, and that
Faverton was to be her prison only so long as it
But Vincent was so grateful for Molly's informa-
tion that he gave her a gold piece ; and he went to
Tanswick station and set off for Faverton at once,
notwithstanding a strong desire for lunch, and a
sense of great fatigue in his crippled back, which
John had believed enough to keep him quiet for a
day or two longer. Lady Katharine was in a state
of agony about her son's health and everything
else, when hour after hour passed and he did not
VOL. II 37
274 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
' For goodness' sake, John/ cried the distracted
Patty, ' tell us what you said to him.'
' How you do go on,' said her brother, irritably.
'Did you suppose I was going to quarrel with the
swell in his own house, with the Governor waiting
upstairs for his coffin ? (John, as observed above,
had gone downstairs to Sir Vincent with every in-
tention of quarrelling, and pretty noisily.)
' How could you liel'p quarrelling with him V said
Patty, lachrymosely; * it isn't nice of you, John, to be
for smoothing it over because, poor father being gone,
it's a matter for you to keep straight with Sir Vin-
cent, and get liberal terms out of him.'
' Eight you are,' said John. ' I always keep an
eye to business.' He expressed admiration of Sir
Vincent ; ' A chap who keeps his temper, and could
set a man down if he chose, and who don't say
no more nor he means on any subject.'
' Well I never ! ' cried Patty, holding up her
hands ; ' just fancy if one came to being own sister
to my Lady Leicester ! '
'Don't be an idiot. In the first place, a nice
dance we'd all be in if we brought that on. In
the second, it would never come off. In the third.
DOUBTING CASTLE 275
it ain't desirable. We're as good as he, but the
way to show we think so is by keeping our own line
and not trying to get into his, like we admired it.
Just teach Caroline that, will you ? She's too fond
of running after ladies and aping them. It's a mean
spirit. Equality will never come that way. It's
levelling down we want, not levelling up. I don't
want young Leicester's silk hat, bless him, and Latin,
and stupid Sir before his name. Little things
amuse little minds. While he's got 'em, I'll make
him my bow, like I do to Johnny playing a king.
But I won't own none of these gents for comrades
till I see 'em earning their bread like I do, and dis-
tributing their money, and using their leisure for
something more productive than filling girls' heads
with gimcracks. Look here now — I'd a deal
sooner have married a lady myself I'd have
brought my wife down to her proper place, and
there'd have been something gained. But if you
girls get marrying men above you, you alter nothing.
You leave your own sphere, and you never get a
firm foot in the t'other. There's my views on
socialism for you. You'll never see me, if I made a
million, and had the biggest house in the country,
trying to be a swell like Ned Bryant. He's not
fish, flesh, nor fowl ; and as for his wife ' John
paused. ' Come here, old lady, and I'll tell you
what Ive heard about her. But I won't have
276 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
Caroline told, nor Joe, mind you. Caroline's jealous
of Nan and would be for castinej her off, and Joe
would be getting sweet upon her. If you were as
vain as Carry, you'd have taken her view, and if I
wasn't tied fast already I might have been in Joe's
danger ; there's no knowing. As it is, you and me
have no dust in our eyes, and can see clear enough
that Nan has just got to go on as before, and be
one of the family, with us responsible for her. I
don't mean to budge from that position whether she
turns out well or ill, and if you don't back me up,
I'll be angry with you.'
' But is it true ? ' asked Patty, breathlessly,
when she had heard about Mary Smith.
' I bet you a hundred it's true, though I don't
mean to act upon it or to admit it, if I can help.
The man Kane writes to me that he has got to the
bottom of it at last, and is prepared to show up the
persons who are to blame. Those I take it were
the Governor and his precious sister, but now the
old man's going into his grave we none of us want
to pry into the matter. I'm going up to the Heights
to see that chap Kane this evening, and shut his
mouth. Nannie's a deal better off without such as
he meddling with her, and it can't be nothing but a
whim on his part, of a piece with the rest.'
' But if he can prove it ? ' said Patty.
* I'll hear what he has to say ; but my advice to
DOUBTING CASTLE 277
him will be, " Let sleeping dogs lie." I'm not going
to give up my sister, especially now when she's in a
mess. Who'll see her out of it, I'd like to know, if
it isn't her brothers and sisters ? Now hold your
stupid jaw, do. Xannie she is and l^annie she
shall remain, so long as it depends on John
Meanwhile it happened that at Tanswick station
Vincent, on his way to Faverton, was talking to the
station-master in the recesses of the booking-office
when the Scarborough train came in ; and out of it
descended Mrs. Bryant and Georgina. The elder
lady being in tears, looked even more homely
than usual, and at the best of times she was never
showy enough to be taken for so much as the
beauty's maid. The vicarage pony chaise was late,
and the ladies lingered by the door.
' Ah, Georgie, if ever you'd lost a brother yourself
you wouldn't be so cross,' said Emma.
' If I had lost twenty brothers, I wouldn't make
an exhibition of myself in a public place,' said
Georgina, in a low, acid voice, which Vincent had not
heard from her before. ' Oh, you needn't look to me
for sympathy. The mere idea of your relations
always gave me a sick headache. If you had any
taste you would not parade your connection with
them. Well, there is one comfort ; that disgraceful
Nannie, who is so like you, is put out of the way.
278 MR. BRYANT S^ MISTAKE
Shall I make papa send you after her ? ' And she
Vmcent emerged ; bowed coldly to Georgina,
and handed Mrs. Bryant to her pony carriage,
talking to her about her brother.
' It's pleasant to hear any one speak kindly of
him, I'm sure,' said the poor woman. Georgina
boiled over with fury. She looked up at him
tenderly with her fine eyes.
* Vincent, don't think me a fidget. Are you all
right again yourself ? You limp still ? And how
dreadfully ill you were that Sunday ! ' And she
looked down shyly and blushed. It required skill
to act so nicely when she knew he was frowning at
Georgina declared she had left a shawl in the
station, and got him away with her on pretence of
' Vincent,' said the girl, despairingly, ' you are
angry with me. I see it. Have pity on me. It
is difficult for me to remember — to realise that all
is so changed between us.' Vincent was startled
by the glow on Georgina's face and the tenderness
in her speaking eyes. He might have been taken
in, had he not overheard her remarks to the step-
mother, to whom she spoke so charmingly in public.
He seemed now to see the word ' Humbug ' written
in flaming letters upon her brow.
DOUBTING CASTLE 279
' I really do not understand you, Georgina/ he
said, with supreme awkwardness. Georgina was
struggling with tears.
'Oh, women, /<:a^7^/?fZ women — ' she paused, 'have
a hard lot that they dare never for a moment show
their hearts lest they be misinterpreted, and thought
evil of by the very ones who ' She ended with
a sort of sob and turned away. Vincent was as
much embarrassed as any other young Briton who
finds himself confessedly the wooed when he has
only practised at wooing. His manners were not
equal to the task of enduring this inversion of pre-
' Why do you speak to me like this ? ' he said,
bluntly ; ' it is uncalled for, and deceives neither of
' I have done with her after this, thank Heaven !'
' I have lost him,' thought Georgina. But she
had plenty of poisoned arrows ready wherewith to
cover her retreat. Only, unfortunately, his train
came up before she had time to bend her bow ! and
he unceremoniously left her standing on the plat-
' He will not forget this,' said Georgina. ' It
was my last card.'
' Oh, don't bother ! ' So she addressed Mrs.
Bryant, getting into the carriage, and taking the
28o MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
reins away from her stepmother. ' I warn you I
can't be patient. You and your horrid little niece
between you have ruined my prospects by your
vulgarity and presumption and improper conduct,
and some day I shall pay you both out.'
' Whatever do you mean, Georgie, dear ? ' whim-
' And I thought I loved that girl once ! ' said Vin-
cent to himself ; ' it doesn't say much for my taste !
But now I am going to take stock of my position.
Before I see my heart's treasure, I must be very
clear what I am going to say to her. I have gone
over it all a thousand times, but never practically.
I have never come to the point, and said definitely
to myself and to her, " We must marry, and that
immediately ; " or, " We must part, at once and for
ever." Before I say it, before I attempt the final
persuasion (and jN'annie loves me well enough to
feel weight in my persuasion), I must be very
sure, even at the eleventh hour, that the direction
I give her intentions is the one I do honestly
believe to be the best. So now to my review of
our position. I love her ; how much let the gods
say, for I cannot. I loved her in a holiday humour
DOUBTING CASTLE 281
for lier beauty first ; but it is for far more than her
mere bodily beauty that I love her now ! She loves
me — wonderful but true ; and if we come together
we shall be — for a time at least — so happy that
one day will be as a thousand years, and no subse-
quent suffering would be too high a price to pay for
our one glorious day. Is that what I dare con-
fidently to assert to my treasure to-day ? '
Vincent would have given anything to feel
that perfect confidence ; but he did not. He had
still a sense of risk ; some defined doubt of him-
self ; a shadowy doubt of ISTannie ; and a re-
collection of the detestable axiom that Love is
blind. The wandering, tiresome thoughts ran on.
' Nannie is not a lady ; and I unluckily am born
a gentleman. No, I mustn't emigrate. My mother
will not, I fear, be a very pleasant mother-in-law.
That young man with the gaiters will be offensive
as a brother-in-law. My marriage will be thought
insane. I shall be laughed at, which I don't like ;
and I shall be pitied, which I like less ; Nannie
will have much snubbing to go through, and prob-
ably will never attain to intimacy with ordinary
gentlefolk, or to toleration by my noble relations.
The point is. Do I care ? Couldn't I survive some
laughing and pitying and snubbing and cutting and
quenching ? Of course / could. But if it hurt
282 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
' Still, if I can't get Nannie out of my head, what
is to be done ? Heaven and earth ! Have I the
smallest intention of even trying ? Now I know
quite well what Henry Langton did, and what
many sensible men would suggest, and what I
remember I proposed to myself at one stage of
the proceedings. A secret marriage seemed then
a common -sense arrangement, presenting an easy
solution of difficulties.' Vincent flushed all by
himself in the railway carriage, and cast away
that solution. ' I daresay scores of men have
done it and not repented, but it would not suit
me. I should be certain to wish I hadn't done it,
when it came to telling my eldest son : " You are
my heir, sir, and I cannot hide you if I wished it.
My Nannie was very dear to me, and good enough
to be my wife and your mother; but I did not
think her good enough to sit at the head of my
table ; and your grandmother doubted her taste in
bonnets." What would my son think of me, I
wonder, and my estimate of proportional values ?
What would he think of his mother ? No, no ; if I
cannot face the drawbacks of the position and pro-
duce her openly to the world with all the honours
that are her right, by Heaven, I will let her
' I suppose,' said Vincent with a sigh, ' that in
some fifteen years' time it is just possible that I might
DOUBTING CASTLE 283
many some one else (not Georgma),and without being
rapturous might find myself sufficiently comfortable.
By that time Nannie would be wed to some builder
or shopkeeeper (not Alick), and if we met in the
street, we should each look the other way, for fear
of remembering too much, and failing in our duty to
some one else. It would be all right, I suppose ;
only I don't fancy the position, nor a wife I could
not be true to without an effort. Fifteen or twenty
years' time ! But what was that I heard Georgina
say to Mrs. Bryant ? " Your niece, Nannie, v^lio is so
like yoio." Can that be true ? Is Nannie like Mrs.
Bryant ? I have not noticed much resemblance. Mrs-
Bryant has not Nannie's noble brow, nor that heaven
in her eyes, that peace in her smile. She has not
Nannie's courage, her steadfastness, her generosity,
her merriment. Heavens ! how merry she is ! '
Vincent's thoughts here ran into a siding, and he got
no further in the comparison between Mrs. Bryant and
her niece. What lover ever is able to picture the
appearance of the beloved after the golden halo of
youth and passion shall have gone, and years shall
have blurred the face and sunk the figure ? ' She is
as much like my mother as she is like Mrs. Bryant,'
said Vincent ; ' surely my dear mother will be fond
of my treasure when once she knows her ! ' Wliich
reflection brought him back to Nannie's relations
again, and to the question if he would be doing well
284 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
in persuading her to violate their wishes, supposing
he could accommodate his own conscience to dis-
pleasing Lady Katharine. And Vincent sighed, and
said regretfully, ' But disobedience may be no more
necessary than violence. Patience and perseverance
may induce that gentleman of the gaiters to consent ;
ay, and with secret joy and concealed alacrity.
There was that in his eye which asserted pretty
loudly that he is as good as we ; and verily I admit
that he is more than probably right. But that
being his view, I suspect he would not unwillingly
prove his theory by affinity with his landlord.
Ye gods ! I am averse to gaining the consent of
Nannie's relatives, for it will entail friendliness with
John and eke with Caroline.'
By this time Vincent had left the train at
Henslow station ; had sat for some time at the inn
waiting for a horse ; had encountered his grandfather,
the Earl, and been lectured by him about things
in general ; had driven to Faverton and descended
from his hired trap at the door of John Eandle's
pretentious and comfortable house. 'My cogita-
tions have led to nothing new,' he said, finally, as
he rang the bell ; ' I never do get farther than the
point from which I start. It is unsuitable ; but I
can't do without her. I mean to have her, for no
better, but for no worse reason than this — / love
her! And then the words of an old song rang
DOUBTING CASTLE 285
through his thoughts, and he caught his breath
' Oh dear Life ! when shall it be, that mine eyes thine eyes
And in them thy mind discover,
Whether absence have had force thy remembrance to divorce
From the image of thy lover ? '
*Mrs. Eandle,' said the intruder, oppressed by
Maria's air of alarm and agitation, 'I have seen
your husband this morning, and I have come here
with his knowledge to speak to ]S'annie. You will
put no difficulty, if you please, in my way, but will
be so kind as to beo: that she will come to me at
once.' So he breasted the waves of the Eubicon.
' Oh dear, oh dear, sir ! ' cried Mrs. John, ' Nannie
isn't here ! She has run away ; and whatever my
husband will say to me for letting her go, I cannot
think ! '
Vincent looked at the woman questioningly and
was silent for a few minutes. ' She will have gone
home,' he said at last. But he trembled. Yes, he
had led Nannie into difficulties.
'No, sir. What she has done is this. She as
good as warned me yesterday. Slie has run aiuay
to her cousin Alich'
The gentleman's sudden pallor startled Mrs.
Eandle. It seemed to presage calamity. But he
answered very calmly —
286 MR, BRYANT'S MISTAKE
' Wherever she is, Nannie will not come to harm.
She is not one to be distrusted.'
For the first day or two with her sister-in-law
Nannie had not been uncomfortable, for she needed
time to think and to regain her strength. And if
she were no longer to look for her lover and to
listen for his step upon the sea -shore or the
sheep -tracks of Everwell, why should she care
to remain there ? Nannie petitioned for some
stamps and letter-paper, and when Mrs. John
asked her rather sharply to whom she wanted to
write, the girl did not answer at once, but sat with
her arms clasping her knees, looking out at the
fields where in her childhood she had ridden the
barebacked colts. But she had always loved
Everwell and the sea far better, and had been more
at home with Alick and Mrs. Leach.
' To Aunt Ann,' she replied ; ' she was like a
mother to me. All the boys and girls are like my
own brothers and sisters.'
' Yes,' said Maria, severely, ' Patty told me you
cared more for those vulgar people than for your
DOUBTING CASTLE 287
' Oh, I do wish Aunt Ann had been my mother ! '
exclaimed Xannie, with a sudden sense that that
arrangement would have saved the difficulties about
' Well, I suppose you can write to her if you
wish. Only you must show me the letter. There's
one stamp for you.'
' I have another letter to write,' said Nannie,
blushing. Maria recaptured the stamp.
' Who's that to ? If you don't say, you can't do
it, Xan. It's not my doing. It's John's. I've got
to read every letter you send out.'
' I think I could manage so you might read it, if
you must ; only I do want to write to him once.'
' To him ? To that young gentleman ? Xannie,
aren't you ashamed ? '
' Xo, I am not ashamed. I want to tell him I
have given it up, and gone away, and am never,
never, never going to see him again ; and that, oh
yes ! I hope she will be fond of him and he of her !
Dear Maria,' and Xannie knelt down before her
sister-in-law and put her arms coaxingly round her,
kissing her dress bodice, ' be a little wicked for once,
and disobey John, and don't read my letter. I'll
give you my word not to put one word as I oughtn't ;
or as would make him think I didn't mean what I
was saying about gi^^g him up ; or as you mightn't
see ; only I can't hear the thought of any one but
288 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
himself reading my letter to him, even if it was only
two stiff words. Do, do, Maria ; just for this once,
and there's an end of the whole thing, though it
nearly breaks my heart to say so.'
Maria of course resisted this pleading, and over-
came the impulse to kiss the delicate blue -veined
face with its sad smile held up to hers.
' Then there was something more between you
and Sir Vincent than you let out to John ? ' Nannie
' I can't remember exactly how much I told
John. He flustered me by beginning about wicked-
ness and things we had never even thought of.'
Maria smiled sneeringly. ' If you weren't such
a child, Nan, you'd have known that a young gentle-
man well, no matter ; only I guess the good-
ness came more of your doing than his. Tell me
the whole thing now, Nannie.'
' There is nothing to tell ; and I'll promise you
one thing,' cried Nannie, with her ever ready smile,
'that I'll never, never fall in love with any other
gentleman till my life's end ! '
' You sha'n't write unless John gives you leave,'
replied Maria, grimly.
And so my poor sorrowful Nannie waited and
nursed her grief in silence. When she was alone,
tears would gather in her fair eyes, and she would
sit gazing at the well -stocked lawns and fertile
DOUBTING CASTLE 289
fields, and longing to be home at Everwell ; and
sometimes she stormed a little, and stamped her foot,
and thought Providence unkind because it had not
made her a lady, and fit to mate with the man she
loved. But downstairs Nannie was neither sulky
nor doleful, and Maria told her she'd give a deal
for her gay nature ; for Nannie was splendid with
the baby ; and while she was stifling in her heart
the very aching thought, ' I shall never be anybody's
wife ; I shall never have a darling of my very own
to nurse and to cuddle and to kiss, because he is
like his father ! ' all the while she was singing in her
sweet tones —
' Bye Baby Bunting, father's gone a-hunting ! '
and the child was poking his fat fingers into the sunny
dimples of her smiling cheeks. Maria marvelled.
' Do read me what Jolin says in his letter/ said
Nannie one day.
' Your father is much the same. Nan. John
doesn't know what to make of your Dr. Verrill.'
* Oh, he is such a dear, funny man ! ' cried
Nannie, ' and a very good clever doctor ; only, you
know, nobody but Alick ever thinks of doing exactly
what he says. Please, Maria, what does John say
of Alick ? Nothing ? I wonder at that when I
asked him so particularly. John was to give him
my note. Don't you remember ? '
' I daresay he forgot it. It wasn't very important.'
VOL. II 38
290 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
' Maria ! Why, he promised ! It was important.
I will write to John myself. And I will write to
Alick. And if I don't hear, I must go home. Alick
is very important.'
Maria wrote to her husband : ' You had best say
something of that fellow in your next to keep her
quiet. She is very good and I like her, and I think
it's all right about the gentleman. But I see she's
a flirty sort, and can't do without a sweetheart. She
wants Alick after her, as she can't have the other.
I'll try if I can't introduce some steady young man
here to her ; Adam Carter maybe.'
Nannie knew not why, but she began to be
restless, and her fears about Alick returned. She
missed his familiar presence. Here at Faverton she
couldn't help remembering how of old she used to
long for her dear brother Alick, — yes, of old in the
long-ago days, when if she had walked across
Faverton Park she had cared no more (to her know-
ledge) for young Mr. Vincent than for elderly Sir
Charles himself, who had once chucked her under
the chin, and had said, ' You have a bonny little
' If only Alick hadn't mixed things up so ! '
sighed Nannie, thinking over her girlhood ; all con-
nected with Alick and his dependence on her. She
took out poor Alick's long wild letter and read it
again. ' What does he mean about going away ?
DOUBTING CASTLE 291
Oh, I do hope he has lost that idea that God has
failed him! I wish he would not turn to me so.
But I do hope John gave him my letter, that he
may know I have forgiven him.' Next day, how-
ever, when another despatch came from John
Eandle to his wife, there was still no mention of
' Oh, it is strange ! ' cried Nannie, ' when he is
such an important person ! AMiy, he is a great man !
if he had lived in Palestine, the 'kiTigs would have
listened to his words. And one would think John
had never even heard of him ! '
'My dear,' replied Maria, 'ranters aren't ac-
counted of by educated folk.' Nannie talked so
much more of her cousin than of Sir Vincent, and
with so much greater vehemence, that Maria believed
the danger from the ranter by far the more serious ;
and she pooh-poohed Alick loudly, half disappointed
that the girl could put the romantic gentleman
aside so easily and interest herself in a vulgar
Then came a scribble from Mrs. Leach: 'My
dear, my dear, has my boy gone to get you ? For
he ain't been here since Sunday, and I miss you
never so ! '
Nannie dropped her letter in a fright. ' Oh,
Maria, do let me go home ! Aunt Ann wants me,
and she doesn't know where Alick is ! I am so
afraid there is something wrong with him. Oh, do
let me go home ! '
Maria said little, but she gave the girl no
money, and seldom left her a minute alone. She
wrote to her husband that this Alick was a bore,
and that it had been all nonsense about Sir
At last John in his conjugal correspondence
alluded to the prophet. ' Nan must put that chap
out of her head. I wasn't out in time to get her
message to him that morning, and when I looked
for him he wasn't about. He's left his mother
without any means, and his workshop is closed, and
he has gone off, on the spree I take it, the preaching
game being up. I heard of his being seen farther
down the coast playing the fool, drunk I suppose.
Tell Nan I won't hear his name out of her lips
' You had better read it yourself, my dear,' said
Maria, and expected a storm. But the girl merely
turned very white, and was long silent. Maria was
relieved ; congratulated herself upon the child's
shallow feelings, and having great faith in the
power of the palate, prepared her an extra dainty
for her supper. She kissed the unresponsive
Kannie, resolved to ask Adam Carter to breakfast,
and wrote to John that Nan was the pattern of
gentleness and never sulked.
DOUBTING CASTLE 293
But the girl carried Johnny into the granary,
where it was quiet and sunny, and he could tumble
about, happy in amusing himself ; and she sat silent,
her chin on her hand, and a look of settled sorrow
and growing resolution on her fair young face.
When she came down to tea her mind was
' Maria,' said Nannie, quietly, ' I must go home ;
Alick is in great trouble and misery, and I am sure
he is ill. If he came to harm I should never for-
give myself Whether you and John like it or not,
I must go.' Maria temporised and Nannie said little
But presently Mrs. John stepped into the laundry
to have an explanation with an insolent laundry-
maid ; and the altercation took some time. Nannie
had put the child to bed, and had left him, as usual,
safe, rosy, and slumberous. She listened for a
moment. No sound of Maria. Nannie went into
her room, dressed herself, and left the house, walking
slowly, as if she were doing the most natural thing
in the world. As soon as she was out of sight of
the windows, she ran. Her light foot was untiring
and fleet. She had escaped. She was going to
294 MR, BRYANT'S MISTAKE
' If only I Lad one of the colts ! ' she said to herself,
smiling. ' But no — people would stare.' Two women
were passing her now, and she walked sedately, like
any other young person going an errand at dusk.
They looked at her, for Nannie was too pretty to be
passed by man, woman, or child unnoticed, but they
had no suspicion that she was running away. Then
came a great cloud of dust along the high road, and
Lord Henslow, driving himself with a friend beside
him, stopped and addressed her.
* Can you tell me, my good girl, if that lane is
open the whole way ? I heard it was stopped in
' There is a big hole at the end, my lord, but
you can drive through the field on the left side. I
did it yesterday in the spring cart.'
' Oh ! Who farms those fields down there to-
wards Faverton ? '
' My brother, John Eandle, my lord.'
' Thank you.' They drove on, the old man, who
j)rided himself upon knowing all about everybody,
trying to remember if he had ever heard that farmer's
name before. His companion was expatiating on the
young person they had consulted about the lane.
DOUBTING CASTLE 295
' One feels inclined to take a girl of that sort and
get her up as a lady. That amount of beauty is so
rare, it should not be hidden. Why, she had feature,
complexion, grace, everything ! None of our wives
and daughters are so complete. But transplanting is
too dangerous an operation for flowers of the kind.
They wither at once ; or, if they grow, we fancy they
develop a rank odour from the fields, and after a
time some one treads them down ; probably the ex-
' I never heard of such an experiment,' replied
Vincent's grandfather, taking snuff.
Nannie had walked on a little flurried by this
encounter. She was sorry she had disclosed her
name, though, in the event of her being inquired for,
it was unlikely that any one would consult Lord
Henslow. But she couldn't help remembering that
she, little Nannie, might have been his grand-
daughter-in-law. It was ridiculous to think of. Sir
Vincent must have seen it. She ran on. She was
nearing Henslow now, the trim village where was
the railway station and the beginning of the outer
world. The next place was Karley-le-Street, the
market town. Nannie hoped herself unknown at
either place, in spite of her peach-bloom cheeks and
' I could walk a long way in the dark,' she re-
flected, ' but what am I to do without money for the
296 MR, BRYANT'S MISTAKE
train from Karley ? It is three hours from Karley
to Tanswick. I wonder if they would take me as
goods ? It would be cheaper.'
Hurrying through Henslow, she heard a sound
of wheels behind her, and looked back fearfully.
As sure as she was alive, it was John's smart gig
and the white cob, driven frantically by one of the
farm servants, Maria herself sitting by his side. In
a moment they would be upon her. She had been
missed, pursued, and now here she was, recaptured !
Nannie had presence of mind. Before Maria,
who was short-sighted, could see her, she had
darted into the church, where vespers were going
on. She heard the gig thunder past, but she did
not emerge. She was shaking all over with fright,
and guessing her sister-in-law's movements. Maria
would go straight to the station, whence the last
train for Karley would dawdle off in about twenty
minutes. She would, of course, suppose the runaway
aiming at that. ' As I should have done if I had
had one little sixpence,' said IsTannie, ' but she would
have caught me then. She will know I couldn't
have got farther than Henslow. Oh dear ! I am
afraid to go on and I am afraid to stop here ! What
am I to do ? '
Nannie lingered in the dim, religious light of the
church, not listening to the wearisome young curate,
who was droning the prayers. She abandoned her-
DOUBTING CASTLE 297
self to mere rest and reflection. Then the service
abruptly ended, and the congregation dispersed all
of a minute. Nannie crept out too, though the train
for Karley was gone by this time. She had, in fact,
lost all chance of getting on to-night at all, for the
last eastward train left Karley-le-Street an hour and
a half after the arrival of this little branch one, and
there was now clearly no time to catch it by walk-
ing. Nannie peeped out cautiously from behind a
tombstone, and descried the gig drawn up in the
blacksmith's yard nearly opposite ; the cob's white
nose was peeping out, and Maria herself sat in the
blacksmith's doorway, talking to him and keeping a
sharp look-out on the road. And as it was getting
dark, the blacksmith had accommodated her with a
' I shall never get by ! ' said Nannie ; ' some one
must have told her I went into the church.' She
crept round the churchyard, but it was walled, and
had only the one exit, which led to the high road.
' Whose carriage is this ? ' asked Nannie, idly
standing beside a brougham with a pair of horses,
waiting at the church door and out of sight of Maria-
' Eh, but girls are inquisitive cattle ! ' said the
old coachman ; ' would it lighten you much, my dear,
to know the name of my mistress in Karley who
has sent to fetch the young priest to dinner, when
he's done burning incense to the Virgin ? You are
298 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
just Papists here in Henslow. The priest's a pretty
boy, and he's a-dressing himself in the westry, and
if he don't look sharp he'll keep my missus awaiting
with her dinner.'
' How long does it take to drive to Karley ? '
asked Nannie, patting the horses.
' Half an hour and a bit. Half an hour without
the bit if the priest gives me a florin. He won't.
He's poor. That's why she sends for him. She
loves the poor, when they are popish that is, and
young and glozing. My missus,' continued the old
man, ' is one of them women what's led by priests.
That's one half women ; t'other half runs after
soldiers. You're one of them latter, my dear, I
suppose ; and I been a soldier myself in my day.'
To the coachman's astonishment, Nannie knocked
at the vestry door.
' Come in ! ' roared the curate, obviously in a
fuss, and Nannie intruded as he was in the act of
arranging his collar for the dinner party. His
domicile was at some distance from the church,
hence this slightly sacrilegious arrangement. He
looked appalled by his visitor ; but after a moment's
embarrassment on both sides, he and she, a mere
boy and girl and both with a sense of the ludicrous,
involuntarily smiled and became friends at once.
Then Nannie assumed an air of great dignity, and
told him a story.
DOUBTING CASTLE 299
' I beg your pardon, sir, but I am in a difficulty,
and I thought perhaps you would help me. My
name is Eandle ; and I have been staying with my
sister-in-law at Faverton. But my father lives at
Everwell, beyond Tanswick, and he is ill — very ill.
And I am hurrying home. I have walked in from
Faverton, but the little train is gone ; and now I
sha'n't be able to catch the train from Karley, and
I don't know what to do.'
' Dear me ! ' said the curate, brushing his hair,
' how unfortunate ! Your parent ill. How distressing !
Shall you telegraph ? ' he suggested, helplessly.
' No, sir,' said Nannie ; ' but your driver says you
are going to Karley. It is very presuming of me to
ask it, but would you give me a lift into the town
in your carriage ? '
' The carriage ! Bless me, has the carriage come
already ? How late I am ! The Psalms were very
long,' he grumbled to himself. Then he made a
dash at the water-jug, knocking over the soap in his
fuss. * Good heavens ! what lias become of the
towel ! ' he cried, in despair.
Nannie found the soap under the bookcase and
the towel mixed up with the surplice, and handed
them to the spiritual guide with the gravest counte-
nance in the world. Nevertheless she was very
near laughing, and so was the clergyman.
' Can I help to put your books away, sir ? ' she
300 MR. Bryant's mistake
said, solemnly ; ' it is very bad to be hurried so.' It
was at this moment that the young curate observed
how pretty she was, and felt himself blushing.
Presently he hastened out to the grand carriage,
and Nannie ran after him.
' Here, Thomas,' said the curate, waking the
coachman, ' this young — young — '
'Woman,' suggested Nannie.
' — has missed her train, and wants to be set down
at Karley station. That won't be much out of our
way, I think. She hurries to a dying parent,' said
the curate ; * will you get in, Miss — Miss — '
' Eandle,' said Nannie again, and offered to go
outside, trusting to a screen in the fat coachman.
' No, no. I'll go outside,' said the curate, gal-
lantly, blushing again furiously as he sprang up
beside the astonished servant.
Nannie did laugh very heartily in the depth of
the soft carriage as she rolled undetected past her
sister-in-law, and was borne swiftly towards Karley.
' I have become carriage company sooner than I
expected,' she , said to herself, remembering ' my
lord ' and his high stepping horses, not unlike
the admirable pair that were carrying her along
Upon entering the town, Nannie espied a house,
with a red lamp under three gilt balls, and upon
the doorstep an untidy -looking woman with a
DOUBTING CASTLE 301
child on her arm. ' Clothes bought and sold ' was
inscribed upon the lamp.
' That's the very place I want/ thought the girl,
and put her head out of the carriage window. ' If
you please, sir, I shouldn't hke to take you out of
your way, I'll get down here and walk to the
station.' The fat coachman drew up at once, and
Nannie jumped out, ' I am, oh so much obliged, sir,'
she said to the curate, and the light from a street
lamp fell on her light figure and lovely face. The
curate held out his hand.
' I — I — I — ' he stammered, and Thomas, who
did not approve the proceedings, whipped up the
horses, and setting the carriage in abrupt motion,
cut short the curate's remark. The latter could not
help wishing his rich and amiable hostess was as
young and pretty as the mysterious wayfarer whom
he had brought to Karley.
' I AM not, I hope, too late to do some business,'
said Nannie ; and presently found herself in a very
untidy and ill-lighted den, where was a strong odour
of ancient garments, stale tobacco, and fresh onions.
I want five and threepence for the train, and I hope
302 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
I have something you can take so as to give it to
' Yon have some " jools " maybe to dispose on/
said the woman apathetically, but studying her
visitor all the same.
' ;N"o ; but I have my dress. It is a good one.
What will you give me for it ? '
' You can't go without a dress, my lamb. What-
ever would your ma say ? '
' I can go without a dress if you can sell me
some sort of tidy jacket, for I have a good fishing
petticoat underneath. Only you must be quick, for
the train won't wait. See, it is a good useful dress
and not ugly.'
' ;N'o, it ain't ugly ; but then it ain't a bit stylish.
I can do with it for five and threepence, if you are
sure I won't have trouble from your ma.'
' And you'll give me the jacket in,' said Nannie,
who knew she was being cheated.
'No, not in. Here's one you can have for a
shilling, that'll fit you.'
'But I haven't got a shilling, and my dress is
worth more than that.'
' There's your hat ribbon ; it's worth ninepence ;
' Well, I have no time for bargaining. Yes, you
can have the ribbon, for I hate it. Here, give me
the money and I'll take off my dress. Five and
DOUBTING CASTLE 303
sixpence you might give me, for I am hungry, and I
should like threepence to take to that eating-shop
* Well, I won't be hard on you for threepence.
Are you a servant turned off your place ? '
' Oh ! ' exclaimed Nannie, suddenly, ' I don't
think I can do it ! I never came so low as to wear
other folk's clothes ! This jacket is dreadful 1 '
' It's clean,' said the woman, eyeing Nannie's gray
stuff dress covetously. ' I had it off a very decent
body who died of a cough last week.'
' Take it away ! ' cried Nannie, horrified.
' Here, father,' called the woman, feeding her
baby, ' here's a young person wants five and three-
pence and won't part with her gown. Come and
serve her, will you ? ' A man with a pipe in the
corner of his mouth appeared.
' I am afraid I have nothing else worth so much,'
said Nannie, wishing herself away.
He turned her round as if she were a lay figure,
Nannie submissive, but defiant and rather frightened.
' If your hair warn't red I'd have that,' said the
man ; ' it ain't bad otherwise.'
' Be quick, if you please,' said Nannie, haughtily.
' I'll give you the jacket in,' called the woman ;
' I don't mind that gown of yourn so much.'
' Stop a bit, stop a bit,' said the man, ' don't you
hurry, missus. Here's a summat. You've a jool
304 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE
here. I'll give you six shillings for it at a
' No, thank you/ said Nannie, coldly. But she
blushed very hot indeed, and put her hand over
' Ten shillings then. Who gave it to you ? '
' Here, I'll have the old jacket,' said Nannie,
turning to the woman ; ' beggars mustn't be choosers.
Where can I take my dress off, ma'am ? '
' I say now, what be you after ? ' said the man,
' you don't look like a beggar. I say, look 'ee here.
Pop the jool. You shall get it back afore your
* My boots ! ' exclaimed Nannie, suddenly hold-
ing out her foot to the woman ; ' will you give me
five and threepence for my boots ? '
' No ; they haven't " louis quince " heels and are
rubbed at the seams. We haven't no old ones your
small size neither.'
' My boots and stockings. They are good woollen
stockings. I knitted them myself. And they are
nearly new.' And she sat on the counter with
her trim ankles stuck out for approval.
* I wouldn't mind them stockings for myself. Bill,'
said the woman, ' and the boots might fit Florrie.
We'll be having the Board down on us if we keep
her from school for ever.'
Nannie had bared her feet in a moment, relieved
DOUBTING CASTLE 305
by an alternative , to the jacket, that had belonged
to a cough and a corpse.
' I never see such a gal ! ' said the woman, pro-
ducing the money.
Nannie tucked her little white feet up under
her as she sat in the train, and remembered
that tie had said they were pretty. ' Sell my
red hair, indeed, when lie liked it ! Oh, if it
was for his sake I was going barefoot, how happy
I should be ! But there never is anything I can
do for him, though I love him so. He is too
great to want anything / can do. I would cut my
right hand off for him ; I would indeed. But I am
only allowed to help Alick. I am only able to
Oh, how fresh the salt air at Tanswick felt to
Nannie, when late in the autumn night she descended
at the roadside station ! It was her home, this wild
district ; she had loved no other place. There was
a bright moon, which glittered on the sea, and shone
upon the wayside stones and the roofs of the
Tanswick cottages. Nannie's little hurrying feet
gleamed white as they twinkled under her dark
skirts. The tide was high, still plashing sullenly
against the cliffs. She paused once to listen to the
wavelets, which were eating away the crumbling
rocks ; as surely, though less conspicuously, than
their stormy brethren, which had brought down the
VOL. II 39
3o6 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE
crashing boulders a fortnight ago. What was the
nse of resistance ? Nothing could check the ad-
vancing might of ocean, — washing down a few
crumbs of sand and clay hour by hour, eating out
the heart of the cliff, till in the day of violence
there was no power of resistance left, and the
stubborn rock could only break and fall.
' Oh, what have I done ? ' murmured the girl.
' Alick has been wearing away at me year by year,
and I have let him, and I have yielded to him, an
inch here and a yard there, till some day he will
ask for all, and I shall find no way of escape. A
dreadful weight and burden has been laid upon me,
for I have to help and to save him, and perhaps
there is only the one way it can be done. For it is
all, all ended and over now between my dear lover
and me, and he told me himself I must choose be-
tween him and Alick. And have I not chosen
Alick ? Have I not had to choose Alick ? And
perhaps it will be necessary, and the best thing for
us all, and the best hope for him, if I — Perhaps
it will come to that. Perhaps it will come to that !'
And she wept and implored Fortune's pity, but there
was only the moon and the waves and the wild sea-
birds to hear her ; and all the while her bare little
feet were carrying her on to Aunt Ann and the
children and her poor Alick, who would think she
had come to yield herself to him.
DOUBTING CASTLE 307
Till she was nearing Everwell ; when her heart
failed at the thought of entering, and her sobs
shook her poor, tired frame, and her eyes were
blinded so that she could no longer see her path.
Not yet — not yet could she go down the narrow
steepness of the village lane, creeping along silently
with bare feet, like a guilty thing, frightened at her
own shadow upon Alick's threshold. Not yet could
she leave the stillness, and the loneliness, and the
truce-making night. Wandering about like this in
the moonlight, no one knew where she was, and she
was still free. Vincent's ring was still burning her
throat, though its meaning was almost gone ; and
Alick did not yet know that she had come, — and
perhaps to be his slave.
She turned and lingered long about the Heights,
hoping desperately that her lover might see her and
come out, if only to bid her good-bye for ever, and
to listen to her sobbing tale of woe. But the old
house was fast asleep by this time, and how could
he know that she whom he loved best was outside,
lonely and weary and sorrowful, wanting him ?
Had he come to her then, much of the future had
been different, both immediately and in the months
and years to come — different, and for some, perhaps,
better, and for some, perhaps, worse. Possibly
Fortune hesitated before she threw the cruel die
of that hour. Perhaps the rousing hand already
3o8 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
trembled over the sleeper's head ready to unseal his
ears to the sob below his window-pane, to open his
eyes to the yearning hands stretched out to implore
his help. And perhaps the unseen Power questioned
even painfully with herself whether after all the
hour of these lovers had not come, and the love of
each were not chastened enough, and true enough, and
strong enough to be given its will, and to be hence-
forward a continuous blessing to the hearts and lives
of both. And perhaps, alas ! the unerring dispenser
of Fate still misdoubted one of them, the man or the
woman ; or misdoubted even both ; their courage or
their constancy, their generosity or their wisdom,
or their perfect faith. For sadly often is even the
best of us, when tried in the balance, found to be,
if but a very little, still, for perfection — wanting.
The awakening touch on the sleeper never fell,
and presently the invisible hand led the weeping
girl hopelessly away ; calling out bitterly against
that Fortune which it seemed had wholly turned
against her now. It is the hardest task in the
world to justify to men the ways and the wisdom of
' Vostro saver non ha contrasto a lei ;
Ella provvede, giudica, e persegue
Suo regno, come il loro gli altri Dei.
Le sue permutazion non hanno triegue :
Necessita la fa esser veloce ;
Si spesso vien chi vicenda consegue.
DOUBTING CASTLE 309
Quest' e colei, cli'e tanto posta in croce,
Pur da color, che le dovrian dar lode,
Dandole biasmo a torto e mala voce.
Ma ella s'e beata, e cio non ode ;
Con I'altre prime creature lieta
Volve sua spera e beata si gode.'
AYhat need to tell Nannie's further wanderings
that night ? Her goal was sure, and it was only a
question of when she reached it.
At three o'clock, her bleeding feet noiseless on
the cobblestones, she came to Mrs. Leach's door, and
sat on the threshold, and had one last long sob
before going in and beginning the work that had
called her home to Everwell. In a moment she
would knock at the door and waken the house, and
ask them to take her in. And she pictured Alick
— the light sleeper — the sorrowful keeper of \4gils
— hearing her summons the first, opening to her,
seizing her and clasping her to his heart. ' IN'annie,
Nannie ! my faithful Nannie ! She has come ! '
And she would weep and would not allow herself
to turn away. ' Oh yes, Alick. Dear forsaken,
wounded Alick ! I am here. I have forgiven. I
310 MR. Bryant's mistake
After a few moments Nannie became aware that
this house was still awake ; and before she could
surmise what this could mean, Sally, dressed, tired,
and tearful, with Jimmy in her arms, heavy with
sleep, looked out at the door.
' You are standing on my toe, Sally !' protested
Nannie, nearly smothered by kisses ; ' and look, I
have no shoes on, and you have great naily boots !
Whatever is the matter that you are all up so
late ? '
' We been praying for yo. Nan. We'll be getting
Alick back next. Come in, Nannie, do. Dearie,
will you ask mother to let some of us go to bed ?
Polly's fallen twice on the floor, like him Paul
broke the neck of, and mother just sats her oop
again with a shake. She ain't old enough to pray
the whole night through, even if she cared about
Alick, which she don't. Mother's a wonderful hard
woman to manage, Nan ; you never know how
religion nor anything will take her. She's been
looking awful green in the face this last half hour,
and I feel myself that a deal of fervent praying at
once is like a tossing on the sey in a boat. That's
why I came out to get a sup of air.'
DOUBTING CASTLE 311
Xannie pushed past her cousin and went into the
parlour, where she found several persons assembled.
The scene had something piteous in it, regarded as
a survival of Alick's short spiritual reign, and his
prayer meetings largely attended and keenly relished.
Most of those who had clustered round the hungry-
eyed prophet, hanging on his lips, thrilled by his
touch, obedient to the workings of his soul, had
to-day been drinking in the beer-house and making
obscene jests at his name. But here and there
were a few faithful disciples, who, if they were in
despair about their ruined prophet, had yet retained
some hold upon his teaching. And one such was his
mother, poor Mrs. Leach.
The round table with the children's school prizes
had been pushed aside, and the widow and her
children were on their knees upon the floor. Mrs.
Leach, her grizzling hair hanging over her wet
cheek, was in the middle of the room, supporting
herself by the weeping Lizzie and the less rebellious
of the two boys (for Tom was off with the Eestora-
tion rioters). Little Mary Anne was too sleepy to
cry, but her pretty face had black rivers all over it,
her weary head was rolling from side to side and
her form swaying, while with desperate hands she
clung pitifully to the tablecloth. The baker's wife
and the faithful Samuel Dykes were present also,
and apparently in fairly good condition. The scene
was grotesque of course, but Nannie could not
smile at it.
'Mother, for pity's sake, break off a minute,'
said Sally, looking in. ' Nannie has come.' The
baker's wife rolled to her feet, and the children
jumped up with an air of relief; but Mr. Dykes
shook his fist at Nannie, and Mrs. Leach held down
the struggling Lizzie and Charlie, and continued her
address to the Almighty without change, except that,
from petition for the restoration of her poor boy, she
passed in the one sentence to thanksgiving for the
seasonable arrival of that blessed angel, her poor boy's
beloved, who was the wholesome and handsome and
feeling young wife appointed for him by Heaven.
It was going a step too far, and Nannie interrupted —
' Auntie dear ! I think baby will take fits
lying with his head to the fire. There, Lizzie,
carry him away. Wake up, Polly, and run off
too ! It's bedtime now. And tell Sally to
leave somewhere a corner for me. Let Charlie go,
auntie.' And Nannie forcibly removed the de-
taining hand. Mrs. Leach, ever an actress, fell
forward in a heap on the table, all the while con-
tinuing her eloquent address to the Invisible.
'Nannie,' said Lizzie, who was almost in hysterics,
' as sure as I'm alive, mother has gone crazy.'
An altercation between Nannie and Mr. Dykes,
however, brought Mrs. Leach to her senses. She
DOUBTING CASTLE 313
started to her feet in the middle of a sentence and
said quite cheerfully —
' It's borne in upon me, from the Spirit, that
there is such a thing as wearying the Almighty, and
I was maybey over hasty in summoning an all-night
assembly.' Whereupon she pushed them all out,
and then fell delightedly into Nannie's arms, and
asked what had become of her shoes. 'And I do
believe I am going to swoon for the pleasure of
seeing you, my angel. Don't you think, Nannie,
a drop of summat would have been good — if I
hadn't taken the pledge — to keep off swooning V
' No, auntie, I don't,' laughed Nannie, and put
Mrs. Leach in the arm-chair, she herself kneeling by
her side with her arms round her.
' I have found a sort of benefit in the pledge,'
reflected Mrs. Leach. 'My dear, my dear, you'll
have to get my blessed boy to sign the pledge him-
self, leastways till he has a hold of the Spirit again.'
' Has Alick been drinking, auntie dear ? '
' I don't know. Nan. I don't know what he
hasn't been doing. But I saw him yesterday, my
dear, and God knows what he had on his mind.
It ain't the kind of drunkenness I have experience
of. "Ann," that's what Jim Leach used to say,
" there never was a pleasanter woman than yourself
when you have a drop in you." But it don't seem
to take Alick so.'
314 MR. Bryant's mistake
' Aunt Ann, where did you see Alick yesterday ? '
' In the workshop, Nan, like natural ; though
we han't seen him since the church had the fit,
and no one in the villages could tell us nought but
silly scraps of him. And you gone, my lovey. And
your father like to die to-night ; and John, your
brother, as bad-natured a young man as there is ;
and Bryant all talk, and an ill sort of talk too ;
and poor Emma not a woman of sense ; and all the
children took crazy with fright about nothing. Oh,
my dear, my dear, the trouble I've been in 1 '
' Didn't you speak to Alick, Aunt Ann ?'
' My dear, I talked a deal, but Alick never said
nothing. It's his head as does it, Nan.'
' I'm afraid so, aunt. You remember what Sir
Vincent feared for him ? '
' La now, Nannie !' exclaimed Mrs. Leach, ' that's
the silliest young man as ever I see ! Alick's no
more wrong than me, only his head's a queer un,
specially if he gets into trouble. He mustn't have
trouble ; that's all.'
* Auntie, dear. Sir Vincent meant no more by
what he said of Alick than that, that he goes queer
now and then. I believe he would be all right if
he was happy and quiet. All that preaching was
' But, Nan, you mustn't make queerness an
excuse for not making him happy. It ain't of a
DOUBTING CASTLE 315
kind to make a bad husband. He don't go stupid
or muddling, or throw knives at folk, like Mrs.
Line's young man, acause the kettle boiled over.
I wouldn't deceive you. Nan.'
*I'm not afraid of Alick, aunt. I was always
able to bring him to reason with a little patience.
I don't count a few thumps and pinches such as I
don't think other men give their sweethearts.'
' He have pinched me too sometimes. He ain't
mry good-tempered. Men aren't, saving Jim Leach ;
if you are waiting for a second Jim Leach, Nannie,
you'll die a maid.'
' I wish I might.'
' My dear, to the end of my days I shall feel as
there's summat disgraceful in an old maid. I should
never have thought you the lass to mind a pinch or
two, Nannie, for reason's sake. Maybe he was
jealous of thee ? '
' He was.'
' And maybe you gave him reason. Nan ? '
'Maybe I did.'
' It doesn't follow as he'd be jealous without
' Oh, I know he wouldn't. That is not it.'
' Then what is it, my dear ? You are of an age
to be married now, and you haven't any other young
man. I never was one for waiting when I had a
good offer. " Sally, my dear," I says to her, " if ever
3i5 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE
you have a young man as is well-to-do, and a good
workman, and honest and religious and thought on
by rich and poor ; and has an ugly thumb belike,
or a cut lip or suchlike, don't you be waiting for one
with straighter fingers or bigger moustaches. Grirls
who do that are like to end single, as they began.
The men can't abide such particular women." May-
be it's Alick's shoulder you can't stomach ? '
'iN'o, aunt, I could do with his shoulder. Let
us not talk of it any more till we have found him
and got him like himself again. I couldn't be so
disrespectfid to myself as to marry him while he's
tramping the country and making people think him
tipsy, or wild, or worse.'
' Oh, my dear, my dear, do pray the Lord to
take pride out of your heart. Pride is a wicked
thing, IsTannie. And it's all love to you has misguided
him. And I cannot believe you'd have come back
alone, in the middle of the night, and never a shoe
to your foot, without you was sorry for your teasing
and meant to marry him ! ' The girl rose ; she had
turned pale, but she spoke quietly.
' N'o, aunt, I have not come back sure I will
marry Alick. Of course Lve been thinking of it.
It is not pleasant for a woman to feel she is driving
a good man wild for love of her. I wish I could
make Alick happy. I love him very much in some
ways, but I can't be sure I could marry him. I
DOUBTING CASTLE 317
care about myself too a little, and I know I should
not be happy with Alick as his wdfe. Alick him-
self would repent having got me, if he found I didn't
love him, but loved some one else better, and was
always fretting that I couldn't be with him, and
half wishing to run away to him. Some women,
when they are married to men they do not love
best, find they cannot bear it, and they do run away,
and bring great shame and misery on their husbands.
How can I be sure I am stronger and better than
all the women who have done that ? I am too fond
of Alick and too careful of myself to marry him if
I thought there w^as any chance of its ending so.'
' But, my dear,' said Mrs. Leach, much bewildered,
' you are a respectable girl, and you have no young
man but Alick.'
' That is true enough,' said Nannie, w^earily.
Mrs. Leach went to bed in a very comforted and
pious frame of mind. But Nannie was not yet
allowed her hard -won rest ; for when she had
climbed the steep stair, with the intention of creeping
into her old place in Sally's bed, she found the
three elder children still up and waiting for her
with anxious faces, showing the relief they felt at
the arrival of a capable elder. They also had to be
' Nannie, dost thou think mother has gone crazy V
said poor frightened Lizzie.
3 1 8 MR. BR YANT S MISTAKE
' Liz must be crazed herself/ said the boy, ' for
she's sartain every one else is.'
' Well, she's had a scare,' said Sally ; ' it ain't un-
natural. Nannie, dost thou think Alick is crazy ? '
she asked in a low voice, clasping her cousin's
arm convulsively. Nannie looked at the frightened
childish faces, and felt that her fears must be kept
' Well, I'm going to bed !' said Nannie. ' I'm
determined / won't go crazy anyhow.' And then
they all clustered round her and pleaded,
' Nannie, do, do marry Alick, and then it will all
' But I'm such a May-pole ! ' said Nannie ; ' why
must I have all the weight on my shoulders ? I am
sure, Sally, I'd never cry if I was as big and strong
as you !'
' La, Nan ! you are the merriest dear !' said
Sarah, affectionately, and soon the big girl and all
her brothers and sisters and their mother were fast
asleep, while Nannie watched on.
' I won't think,' she said to herself. ' I'll say
the tables, and fancy sheep jumping through a fence,
and listen to my breathing. I will sleep. It will
be time enough to think to-morrow. I'll find
Alick ; and to-morrow is the day when he told me
long ago he would ask me again. I had forgotten
it ; but I am quite sure he has not forgotten. And
when he asks me
DOUBTING CASTLE 319
' Xo, I won't think. Good-night, Myself. 11"
you open your ugly eyes again, I will stick hairpins
into them. You shall go to sleep, Myself, so as to
be strong and able to laugh to-morrow, and to cheer
people up. It seems you have been sent into the
world to do that ! Twice one are two ; t\vice two
are four ; twice three are six. I am not sleepy yet.
Twice four are eight. Oh dear, I do wish I could
go to sleep ! and sleep, and sleep, and sleep, and
never wake up any more ever again.'
END OF VOL. II
G. C. & Co.
Printed by R. & R. Clark, Edinburgh